"You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch. It's sort of what we have instead of God."
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
"You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch. It's sort of what we have instead of God."
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
By: Bryan Q Miller & Pere Perez
And here's yet another wonderful romp in the world of Stephanie Brown, Batgirl. This is Steph's first adventure as part of Batman Incorporated (for those of you who don't know, Grant Morrison has decided that there will be multiple Batmen, one for each country, with Bruce Wayne pretending to be their bankroller) and teams her up with the other Bat-family bundle of joy, Squire, aka the British and female version of Robin.
In the end, this issue is just plan old fun. The art is clean, Stephanie and Squire make some great facial expressions, and there's a good action dynamic to the whole thing. The humor is balanced with some great action sequences. All in all, I'm very angry that this series will be cancelled in a few months, in favor of Babara Gordon (with walking!) as Batgirl.
By: Gail Simone & Diego Olmos
Don't get me wrong. I love Birds of Prey and Gail Simone, but this series has just been awful from the beginning. I think I'm only now just seeing it.
While there have been some good moments, the overall lackluster nature of the book is truly starting to shine (smudge?) through. So while I'm still annoyed over the book's cancellation, I guess I can understand why new blood is needed. Simone seems to be saving her best dialogue and stories for Secret Six while this book just gets more boring. Simone even manages to make one of her own best creations boring here. And the ending? Really? Huntress? That just doesn't seem like a bright idea. Also, the art was off the whole issue with strange perspectives and stretched out faces.
By: Rick Remender & Mark Brooks
I picked up this book because I simply couldn't say no to the return of two of my favorite X-things: the Age of Apocalypse, an alternate world where the villain Apocalypse rules America, and the Exiles, a team of dimension-hopping X-Men. And while this issue doesn't disappoint, it also seems too clean and too structured. The characters are chosen for maximum emotional damage to our cast, sure, but it's almost too nicely done. It's like there's no surprises here.
But still, the book is fun, with great dialogue and pacing from Remender and vibrant artwork from Brooks. I particularly love how Brooks grasps the look of the AoA, which made its first comic appearance in the early 90's, meaning lots of things being overdone. Brooks manages to make it look clean and big and still a bit scary.
By: Kieron Gillen & Terry Dodson
I had high hopes for Gillen on this series but the conclusion to his first solo story was a big let down. Shadowcat gets her magic fix (emphasis on magic) for her phasing problem, the villains once again become allies, and appearances by several X-Men go wasted. There's a few good action moments, like when Kitty finds Wolverine, but that's about it.
The only thing keeping this series together is the Dodson's artwork, which is absolutely beautiful. If only Greg Land didn't share this series with them. I do wonder, however, if Gillen will be able to work things out between after the series relaunch this fall, when he has a more stable cast of characters to work with.
By: Peter David & Dennis Calero
This issue is all set-up and no pay off. While David can make that work sometimes, this issue just fell flat. There's a few great and hilarious moments, and Layla is back to being weird (it was better when she was weird and 10 years old, but what you gonna do?), but the overall effect, especially with the ghost Feral and random god-like creatures attacking, is wasted. There's a lot of movement, but not a lot of danger.
I'm also glad that David is finally going to address the damage done to Wolfsbane's character by the previous writers. She's supposed to be a good Christian girl and she went and got knocked up. Of course, she only got knocked up after using her wolf form to literally devour her evil, rapist priest of a father. That's right, folks, she ate her dad. Gross. I hope David can come up with a way to fix that one that still makes sense.
By: Mike Carey, Khoi Pham, & Steve Kurth
I like most of the ideas in this issue, but I'm not sure I like the actual execution. So this new X-team, while not quite as crazy as Carey's previous X-Men team (which featured no less than 4 semi-reformed villains), is a bit off (3 reformed villains, 1 reformed thief, 1 crazy, 1 jerk). And their mission is to track down Legion's missing personalities (he's schizophrenic) who escaped his brain and are now running around. Um, OK?
And while the second story, featuring Marvel Girl, is much more interesting, the experimental way its told (essentially, backwards) gets lost on the reader. I could not figure out what was going on until about the fourth page. And instead of thinking "Oh, clever", I thought "Oh, annoying". I'm all for trying new things, but this one didn't work out.
I am excited, though, if Marvel Girl's story is any indication of where this series will go. That would be a story worth telling, I believe, as Marvel Girl, Polaris, and Havok have been MIA for several years now. And I can't wait to see Polaris's reaction to seeing her dear old daddy Magneto again.
Technorati Tags: Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Gail Simone, Huntress, Kieron Gillen, Legion, Mike Carey, Peter David, Stephanie Brown, Terry Dodson, Uncanny X-Force, Uncanny X-Men, Wolfsbane, X-Factor, X-Men: Legacy
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Title: True Blood
Form: TV series
Adapted From: the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris (originally called The Southern Vampire Mysteries)
Starring: Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse), Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton), Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte), Ryan Kwanten (Jason Stackhouse), Rutina Wesley (Tara Thorton), Chris Bauer (Andy Bellefleur), Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette Reynolds), Jim Parrack (Hoyt Fortenberry), Carrie Preston (Arlene Fowler), Alexander Skarsgaard (Eric Northman), Todd Lowe (Terry Bellefleur), Deborah Ann Woll (Jessica Hamby), Kristin Bauer (Pam De Beaufort)
Created by: Alan Ball
Appearing: Currently on HBO, fourth season premiere 6/26/11
TV Review: Say what you will about True Blood, but you can't deny that there's really nothing else on TV like it. There might be other vampires, but none of them match this show's lust for violence, messed up characters, and lots and lots of sex. And don't forget the utter nakedness.
And while that doesn't always mean the show rocks every episode, it does mean that nearly every episode is crazy and ususally fun.
The main strength of the show is its well-rounded cast. While the stars of the series might be Paquin, Moyer, and Skarsgaard, its scene-stealers like Bauer, Woll, and Ellis that make the series great. In fact, I'd say that if the show focused only on Sookie and her two main vamps, the show would be dismally boring.
The main weakness of the show, unfortunately, is also its unwieldly cast. There are so god-damn many of them. Even for an hour drama, this series tips the scales of cast members. And in the fourth season premiere, we got at least four new major characters (only two of which, Portia Bellefleur and Marnie, were ever part of the books). If you think that starring list up there is bad, realize those are only the characters who have appeared in nearly every single episode.
Also a problem is that with a cast this big, is that it's hard to make the series gel. Seasons 1 did this with a well plottedmurder mystery - someone in the cast was a killer, but we didn't know who, so the whole of Bon Temps, the fictional southern town of the series, was locked in a manhunt. Seasons 2 and 3 had Big Bads, but only a handful of the characters were truly affected by them and our heroes, as it were, didn't come together to defeat them, either. It's a plot problem that's not helping this series.
But, in the end, I'll still watch. The premiere of the fourth season was a bit slow, but started with a nice time jump, allowing Sookie and several of the characters to start over. The surprise gay wasn't that surprising, and as mentioned, there are too many new characters in already packed cast, but there were some other nice twists, like Bill's new role. I also enjoyed the Jessica-Hoyt scenes, but that's mostly for the on-screen chemistry of Woll and Parrack.
Adaption Analysis: When adapting this series, which is written in the first person from Sookie's perspective, meaning the reader only gets Sookie's thoughts on any given situation, Ball had some big decisions to make - how does he expand Bon Temps to make the other characters just as lively as Sookie herself?
In the end, I think he did his job too well. The other characters have somehow eclipsed Sookie and her storyline, to the point that now, several of the important plot points don't come from Sookie - and many fans watch the show for the characters who aren't her.
The first season followed the books rather closely, plot and character-wise. We get an introduction to Pam and Eric in mid-season (only minor characters in the first book but major characters in the rest of the series). The only significant changes come from the brand new character of baby vampire Jessica (killed and raised by Bill as punishment for his murder of another vampire - a different punishment than the book's) and the family relations between Tara and Lafayette. In the books, the two characters have nothing to do with the other - Lafayette is a very minor character (who only survives until the second book) and Tara isn't really described as being black. The biggest plot change is that of V, vampire blood, which becomes a major storyline for the series but one that was never really developed in the books.
But it's in the second season when Ball really starts to change things - which is also where the creators start having issues getting all the characters on the same page. In shows like Buffy, the cast was large but they all came together at the end to defeat the Big Bad. On True Blood, sometimes the minor characters don't even know the Big Bad exists. Like in Season 2, Sookie doesn't even meet Maryann, a minor villain from the second book who was elevated to Big Bad status for the TV show, until mid-season.
In season 3, the big bad is Russell Edgington, a completely different character than the version from the books. Other minor character roles also shift, mainly to keep the interesting characters around. Lafayette, for example, isn't killed, and Sam's family is dramatically altered and expanded.
In the fourth season, there's been a radical departure from the series, with Claudine and the fairies taking on new powers and a brand new role - the first major departure from the books for Sookie's family history. Sookie's bloodline and powers are also slightly altered, as those are only now being explored in the books (there's 11 of them now, the most recent one pictured at left).
I think the adaption has been incredibly smart in its departures. The show would not have survived, especially with its emphasis on sex and violence, with the narrow view of only Sookie to work with. There simply can't be that much sex when you focus on a single character (which is why you won't ever see a straight adaption of Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series or Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series). But in the expanded world of Bon Temps, Ball manages to make some very smart changes with complex characters that only expand Sookie's world, instead of just filling it with redudant characters.
True Blood is now showing its fourth season on HBO. Previous seasons are available on DVD, iTunes, and other outlets.
"Lack of originality, everywhere, all over the world, from time immemorial, has always been considered the foremost quality and the recommendation of the active, efficient and practical man."
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot
In writing and publishing, a big problem is plagiarism. Even well-respected and well-known magazines like Rolling Stone can't seem to escape its evil reach.
Plagiarism is defined as taking another person's words and passing them off as your own original work, without citing their original source. It's a huge problem now because of the ease in which you can find writing these days, through the internet, and those wonderful copy and paste tools. It is, however, also much easier for others to detect plagiarism, given teaching tools like TurnItIn, which compares work to anything else on the internet. (I use it all the time in my classes.)
In publishing, the major problem is that no one uses these tools, developed mainly for the classroom, to check for the originality of work. Amazon has even been having issues with self-publishers taking other people's work and trying to pass it off as their own. The problem, too, is that plagiarism isn't only the stealing of someone else's work, but also of failing to attribute where information came from - in the Rolling Stone article, it's an issue of attribution that's the issue.
The other problem is that parody and allusion can often blur the lines of plagiarism in creative work. Allusion is defined as the conscious recalling of an earlier work by a newer work. Allusions happen all the time in literature. If you read an annotated edition of Howl, for example, you'll find that there's an allusion to another work of literature, or other media, in nearly every stanza.
Allusions are different from plagiarism, even though allusions often take the form of using another work's words, because the author is purposely trying to make that connection to the former work. The allusion happens quickly and then the work moves on. It's can't be an allusion if it's an entire paragraph.
Parody is where a work is redone to highlight its more humorous aspects, though it often copies large portions of the original work. Parody, like allusion, are considered part of the fair use of copyright, because the point of the parody is to bring attention to the original work but also to make fun of it. Although large portions are copied, the humor must always be in place.
So, while all three copy from other sources, the major difference is that plagiarism is passed off as being the writer's own work and as being original. In allusions and parodies, the reader is supposed to realize that the work is being taken from an outside source.
"Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy shit they don't really need."
Tyler Durden in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club
Title: The Dragon Token
Series: Dragon Star (Book 2 of 3); sequel to the Dragon Prince trilogy
Author: Melanie Rawn
Publisher: DAW (1992)
Sub-Genres: Dragons, Magic, Political Intrigue, Royal Studies, Sword & Sorcery
Plot Summary: The Vellant'im, barbarians who arrived on dragon ships and who shout the name of sorcerers in battle, are winning battle after battle to complete their conquest of the entire continent. Pol, now High Prince after Rohan's death, is left to face the barbarians with dwindling resources and several failed military attempts. Following the fall of several important holdings, sorcerers are slowly coming out of hiding, claiming Princess Naydra, the eldest surviving daughter of former High Prince Roelstra, as their own, and overtaking the Firon castle, while their mortal enemy, the Lord of Goddess Keep Andry, puts his personal ambition ahead of the world that needs him. But when three members of Pol's family are taken, the High Prince vows that this war will soon be over.
What I Liked: Rawn continues to deliver what she does best: a mixture of great characters with opposing motivations and lots of action and intrigue. The plot moves rather quickly, bouncing back and forth between characters, and gives a grand scope that most fantasy novels can't amount to. The world-building aspects of the previous books definitely help here.
The other main strength is that Rawn isn't afraid of killing off characters, and for a fantasy novel, she does quite well at depecting what what war is really like. Even children are offered up as potential victims, as famine and sickness go hand-in-hand with war. Rawn also manages a wonderful glimpse into grief, giving the reader the entire range of emotional responses to loss.
What I Didn't Like: This book is suffering from major middle-book-of-the-trilogy-itis. The major plot points go unresolved, we know just about the same amount about the mysterious barbarians as we did when the book began, and the major characters don't grow that much - we see a few characters deal with grief, pain, and suffering, but that's about it.
The other problem is that there are simply too many character floating around. The main cast has ballooned to about thirty main character (no joke there), and all of them get moments in the sun. And some of those moments are dull and boring because the reader wants to get back to the core cast. The other major problem is that several of the outlying characters' plotlines aren't currently connected to the main story, so the reader doesn't really care about them at all. The Tears of the Dragon and the Firon plotlines simply don't add anything to this volume.
Other Melanie Rawn Books: Exiles, Fire Raiser, and Spellbinder: A Love Story With Magical Interruptions.
More High Fantasy: The Elder Gods (The Dreamers, Book 1), The Wheel of Time, Boxed Set I, Books 1-3: The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, and The Sword of Truth, Boxed Set I, Books 1-3: Wizard's First Rule, Blood of the Fold ,Stone of Tears.
Buy It Here!: The Dragon Token (Dragon Star, Book 2)
Last Thought: The worst book of the six book series, due to unresolved plots and extra characters.
"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense."
Book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (also known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone)
Author: JK Rowling
Publisher: Scholastic Press (1998)
Genres: Children's, Fantasy
Sub-Genres: Adventure, Boy Who Would Be King, Hero Quest, Magic, Wizards
Character Speaking: Unnamed Narrator
Analysis: The most interesting part of this opening line (the first sentence in a seven book series, with each book getting progressively larger and more complex for the most part) is that it has nothing to do with our title character and (now) culturalicon, Harry Potter. Instead, the opening of Harry Potter deals exclusively with two minor characters - the Dursleys, Harry's aunt Petunia and uncle Vernon who adopt him after his parents' death at the hands of the evil wizard Voldemort.
Even more striking is that Rowling keeps this pattern in several of the following books - a few of them (like Half-Blood Prince, which begins with a chapter about Snape), will start with the POV of a character that's not Harry. One of the books even focuses on Voldemort's killing of a muggle groundskeeper. These excursions outside the main POV of the series (I would say about 95% of the series is from a third person limited POV - Harry's) help move the plot along for the most part or give the reader information that the characters don't know to heighten the dramatic tension.
Here, the opening line, though, is played mostly for humor and tone. The Dursleys, in the opening books, are often the butt of jokes, with Petunia fawning of her fat and pathetic son Dudley (just look at his name!) and Vernon having aversion to anything from the imagination, even if the magic (like mail-delivering owls or a flying motorcycle) is right in front of his face. Furthermore, he's basically trapped his nephew into a horrible existence (Harry lives in a cupboard under the stairs).
In the later books, Harry's relationship to the Dursleys is transformed, with revelations from Dumbledore about why he lived with the Dursleys in the first place and why his aunt Petunia hates magic. Because, unlike what this first line would have us believe, Petunia knows very well that magic exists - she knew exactly what her sister was. And she even wanted to be a witch, too.
In fact, the Dursley have little to no plot points attached to them throughout the series, besides housing Harry for the summer. But Petunia and Vernon become the antithesis of Harry's belief in himself and in his friends - he believes, like his parents who were able to defeat Voldemort with their loving sacrifices, in the power of love and kindness.
Love is its own kind of strange and mysterious magic, no? In other words, this sentence is actually already beginning the entire serie's theme: love and belief can conquer anything.
Buy It Here!: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)
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"You oughta be thankful
A whole heaping lot
For the people and places
You're lucky you're not."
Dr. Seuss, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?