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review 2017-12-05 18:29
Mice Templar Series - Series Review
The Mice Templar, Vol. 1: The Prophecy - Bryan J.L. Glass,Michael Avon Oeming
The Mice Templar, Vol 2.1: Destiny Part One - Bryan J.L. Glass,Michael Avon Oeming,Víctor Santos
Mice Templar Volume 5 - Bryan J.L. Glass Mice Templar Volume 5 - Bryan J.L. Glass

When I was in college, I started reading the Redwall novels by Brain Jacques.  I know that I was reading below my reading level, but to say that I had read Watership Down at a very impressionable age would be an understatement.  So, give me animals doing human things or close to, and I will at least try the story.  Therefore, later in college when I discovered William Horwood while on a trip to the Netherlands, I was like WTF, why isn’t he published here in the US.  Bastards.

 

                Mice Templar is like Redwall in that it focuses on mice.  That’s about it.  There is more blood, there is more violence, there is less feasting, there is more death.  It is Anime and not Disney.

 

  Mice Templar relates the story of Karic of Cricket’s Glen and his friends and family as they struggle to make sense of a dark world, where light is not.  Karic’s home is attacked and his family and friends taken or killed.  Those that are taken are to be sacrificed in the capital.  Karic is determined to save those he lives, and so answers in the affirmative when he determines upon a course that will change not only him, but his world.

 

                The world of the Mice Templar is based on various European myths and history.  There are connections to Joan of Arc, to various Norse sagas, and Arthurian legends.  But it is also connection to the Dark Ages, for the mice’s world seems to be on perpetual darkness, there is not day.  Even the inclusion of the Maeven, female mice warriors, has historical precedent.  (To be fair, the inclusion of female characters who are actually truly active takes a bit, yet it is played off quite nicely in the end).

 

                One of the main themes that the comic series explores is the question of story telling and destiny.  Our lives are stories, and most humans convey wisdom don history though stories.  Kari is willing to take on the quest, but does he lose himself in the process?  He becomes a symbol to more than just mice.  But is that symbol something to be feared or to be worshiped, and for how long?  We tend to blame the English for the death of Joan of Arc, but the French were also culpable. 

 

                Part of Karic’s struggle is to reconcile the Templars who are split almost along the lines of the time of two popes, though more on a secular level than anything.  The mouse who becomes Karic’s closest friend, Cassius, has been tramlined by this war, and both Karic and his childhood friend Leito almost reenact over the course of the series.

 

                But what hangs over the story, one of the themes is the idea of story and the power of story.  It forces the reader to confront how story telling plays a role not just in history but in setting us on the paths we chose as well as how we view questions of faith.

               

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text 2017-07-17 17:15
Comic Book Post
Wonder Woman FCBD 2017 Special Edition (2017-) #1 (Wonder Woman (2016-)) - Greg Rucka,Jr., Romulo Fajardo,Nicola Scott
Batman: The Gotham Adventures - Ty Templeton,Rick Burchett,Terry Beatty
Red Sonja #0 (Dynamite Entertainment Comics) - Michael Avon Oeming,Mike Carey,Mel Rubi

Over the last month I have read several comic books/graphic novels that have been offered for free for kindle or on Comixology.  Here’s a some of the highlights.

Overwatch Series – This comic series, offered for free, is based on the video game of the same name.  It is a game I haven’t played.  The comic series, spanning ten issues, is pretty damn good.  There are quite a few woman characters, several of whom are women of color.  The series also covers several morality questions – what is good, just, right.  The series also uses characters who are older.  The artwork is pretty good as well.  While eight of the issues are basically character studies with action, the last two issues deal with Halloween and Christmas, and so are somewhat a guest star list type of story.  Familiarity is with the video game is not needed to read these, though they should be read in order.  This is because a character in one is the mother of the central character in the following issue.  While the series does offer a must know cliffhanger, it is resolved in the ten issues.

 

Various Batman Comics -  Overall the Batman comics were what you would expect from Batman, and yet, they were in some ways the most disappointing.  The Rebirth first issue was good, though perhaps straining at the very loose sense of reality that holds things together.  The sequence involving passengers on a plane was, in particular, really great.  Neil Gaiman’s Batman in Black and White was clever, if not as clever as it thinks it is.  But the taste of Batman was soured by two freebies, the 10c Adventure and Gotham Adventures. 

                Batman and the Ten Cent Adventure is not as bad as Gotham Adventures.  The basic set up is that Bruce Wayne is framed for a murder.  The story is told from the viewpoint of his bodyguard.  A young woman who reminds a bit of Black Canary.  She was Wayne’s bodyguard until she discovered his identity as Brue Wayne and then she became is crime fighting partner, just don’t call her Robin.  Her voice tells the story so we get very much of Wayne worship and of course, she is in love with him, though he doesn’t know it.  And poor Bruce had to break up with his true love which he does by inviting her to his mansion so she can walk in on him when he is with some other women.  Of course, then he stalks her when he is Batman because that is so romantic. 

                You see my problem. 

                Gotham Adventures is worse, even though it features the extended Bat family.  That comic opens with Batman, Robin, and Batgirl chasing the Joker.  Robin gets delegated to help some woman, and I am not really sure what Batgirl does because she doesn’t have anything to do with Batman catching the Joker.  The Bat group take Joker back to the Batcave because there is a bounty on Joker’s head.  Nightwing shows up and gets a few lines.  Finally, after several pages, Batgirl actually gets to speak.  Everyman had lines, mostly several, before Batwing gets even one.  She is left to guard the Joker, who of course knocks her out.  If it was Alfred getting the drop on the Joker the shit would have hit the fan.  While she is knocked out, the Bat men are all doing heroic things.   So, one woman, who can’t even guard a prisoner who is handcuffed.  It’s a shame really because it is leaves a sour taste in the mouth, and stops what would have been a pretty fun comic read from being so.

 

Various Wonder Woman Comics – So these include Wonder Woman Rebirth (FCBD editions and #1 itself) as well as DC Super Hero Girls.  The Rebirth issues are very interesting and good.  And guess what, one of the FCBD editions has two men talking about a woman and her relationship to one of them.  That is just awesome.  Really awesome.  In particular, what I enjoyed about the Rebirth idea was the concept of storytelling and retconning which WW’s Rebirth storyline seems to directly tackle.  This is wonderful because all the multiple origin stories get a tad confusing.   

                There was also an older Wonder Woman, apparently after Crisis of Infinite Worlds.  This is interesting because Diana Prince is no longer Wonder Woman, at least in name, though the villains still see her as such.  Which shows you that villains know better.  And this raises a question.  I have not read mainstream comics for several years.  But I do know that have been quite a few times when Diana Prince has lost the title of Wonder Woman (once to her mother).  I know that in the last few year, Marvel’s Thor lost his hammer to a woman, and Iron Man is, wonderfully, a young black woman but my question is this -  do any male super heroes lose their status or title as much or more as Wonder Woman has?  Why Wonder Woman?  I’m not trying to be snarky, I am legitimately curious.  How does this break down?  Anyone know?

                The Super Hero girl comics are cute, and intended it seems for a younger audience.  The two I read where actually the same story, one just longer than the other.  The story concerns summer break where Wonder Woman and Bumble Bee go to Mount Olympus.  The cast is multi-ethnic, though a bit strange – why Poison Ivy – but the series does show the girls working together and being there for each other.  Though, why Batgirl sightsees as Batgirl I don’t know.

 

There were some surprises in this comic freebie read – Red Sonja 0, written by Michael Avon Oeming and Mike Curry was actually quite good, despite the   costume that makes no sense and seems to have a magical power to stay still and not show X-rated bits.  Red Sonja Vol 4, #0 was not as good, in fact it was just annoying, with more teasing of body parts.  Damsels: Mermaids was also quite good and a wonderful take on Andersen’s Little Mermaid.  Honesty, this might just be my favorite version.

 

Of course, not much has changed in comics.  Women, in particular the heroes, are usually drawn with Triple DDD bust sizes and a middle that couldn’t house a liver or intestine.  The men are buff too, let’s be honest, but they at least have some room for internal organs.  This is particularly distracting in Grimm Comics because the story telling is good there, but the female characters so sexualized that it is nerve wracking.  The explanation seems to be Neverland, a spin off, because the Wendy character was actually dressed.  The Godstorm spin off was good too  - Zeus mediating on fatherhood was really great.

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text 2014-12-21 18:57
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 240 pages.
Powers - Volume 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? - Brian Michael Bendis,Michael Avon Oeming

okay...dunno if I'm gonna do ten graphic novels in a row like I originally thought...but I can sure do two!

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review 2014-05-26 02:54
Don't play games
Powers, Vol. 2: Roleplay - Brian Michael Bendis,Michael Avon Oeming

Powers is an interesting concept. It looks at the superhero world from the viewpoint of superheroes being the perps and victims of murder. With this second volume, the victims aren't quite superheroes. They are college students playing an elaborate superhero role playing game that gets deadly when they get murdered by a superhuman.

This was dark and sad, to think that these kids were being murdered that way. And the root cause makes it even more distressing. Detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim investigate this crime, and Deena in her forthright way steps on some toes and gets herself in trouble. There is a part that is really funny, in a sick kind of way. So Walker is forced to solve the crime on his own for the most part. He calls in some markers with folks he knew from his superhero days.

I didn't like this one as much as the first book in the series. It seemed less dynamic, although it has an interesting statement on the concept of superheroes as celebrity and part of popular culture. the kids were playing with fire in big and small ways, considering dressing up like a superhero is illegal in the story and also for another huge reason.

Powers is for people who are intrigued by a different view of superheroes, but the story is focused on dialogue and characterization and less on action and over the top exploits of superpowers. In a way that's kind of refreshing, but you have to be in the mood for it. It was a departure from some of the other graphic novels I am reading right now, so I think the downer aspect of this book didn't quite work for me at the time.

Overall rating: 3.25/5.0 stars

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review 2014-01-26 05:41
The Case of the Murdered Superhero
Powers, Vol. 1: Who Killed Retro Girl? - Brian Michael Bendis,Michael Avon Oeming

Powers is a clever blending of superhero and noir crime/mystery fiction. Superheroes not only exist, but they are a normal part of the landscape in this world. And they can end up both as murder victims and perpetrators.

Detective Christian Walker hides a past that is interconnected with superheroes who are involved in the latest murder case, Retro Girl, a seemingly invulnerable crimefighter who is found with her throat slit in a playground underneath a spray-painted phrase, "Kaotic Chick."

This provides for some interesting moments as Walker and his new partner, Deena Pilgrim work to solve the case. Any good police procedural includes a bit about the medical examiner, and one can imagine that trying to do an autopsy on a person whose body is invulnerable could be difficult. There's a bit of black humor inherent in that situation, along with the sadness that someone would murder a woman who was very much beloved to the city at large.

Another fun bit was when the detectives interview various superheroes and supervillains. Any self-respecting superhero-inclined geek would probably get a thrill out of this, and some of their answers were quite hilarious. It's interesting to see the varying level of cooperation in the case that the super-villains provided. Their replies very expressive of their individual personalities, both in the case of the heroes and villains.

The storyline in this is dark, but not too dark. Suitably noirish. The character development is pretty well-done. Christian Walker has the physique of a superhero like Superman or Batman, and the stoic demeanor, specifically the latter crimefighter. He also has a sense of latent anguish that his inquisitive partner ends up digging away at until he reveals a surprising past that provides a bond to the superhero community. It's clear that these super-powered people have very human personalities, both in the good and bad ways, as the reader finds out more about Retro Girl and the people who knew her closest.

Murder is always a tough subject. In this case, the reveal on who killed Retro Girl mirrors the senselessness of violent crime that we see in our real life societies. One would think that a superhero would be safe from such violence, but people always seem to find a way to harm each other.

The artwork is tailored to the noir storyline, with bold lines and figures, and the backgrounds done in shadows with minimal bright colors. The creators of the series studied the use of lighting in cinema, and it shows in the art design of this book.

This is a good start to a series. I'll be coming back because the storyline is very intriguing to me.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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