And Then I Read: BRINGING THE BOY HOME by N.A. Nelson

Cover art by Tim Jessell

A story of the Amazon and its primitive remote tribes, this book follows two boys of the Takunami tribe. Tirio was born with a bad foot, making him lame. When he is six years old, his mother sets him adrift down the river, essentially he has been ejected from the tribe. Tirio is found by a white research worker who brings Tirio home to Florida with her, and adopts him. Tirio is grateful, and works hard to overcome his disability, learn English, and fit in with his new surroundings, but he can’t forget the jungle, his tribe, and their ways.

Luka is about to turn thirteen, the age at which he must undergo a trial and test to become a man of the tribe. His mother trains him and tests him relentlessly, while neglecting the rest of the family. Why is this so important to her, Luka wonders? Does it have to do with his mysterious father, who he has not been allowed to meet?

Back in Florida, as Tirio’s thirteenth birthday approaches, he feels ever more strongly that he needs to return to his tribe to take part in his own test of manhood. To reinforce this, he seems to be getting mental images and messages from his father encouraging him to come. Tirio and his new mother Sara plan a return to the Amazon where she will take up her research again. Tirio has not told her his plan to return to his tribe because he knows she won’t allow it. Yet, it’s something he has to do. The trials of these two boys are intertwined in surprising ways as they encounter all the dangers of the Amazon river and jungle, from caymans and jaguars on the hunt to hunger and fierce thunderstorms. It’s a well-told story of adventure and discovery.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: HASHTAG: DANGER #5

Image © Ahoy Comics. Main story written by Tom Peyer, art by Chris Ciarrusso.
Backup written by Paul Constant, art by Fred Harper.

Of all the Ahoy comics, I think this is the funniest, and it’s funny in a way that appeals to the comics fan in me. First, once again, the cover has nothing to do with the contents, but is quite good. Next, the story is broken into chapters like the early Fantastic Four issues, with equally over-the-top titles. Third, the comic is chock full of action and slapstick and sound effects, but the best moments come from the main characters’ bickering. The Snelson backup is a different kind of funny, very modern and sarcastic, but equally entertaining, as we see the struggling comic trying to survive with a lame livestreamed chat room for his fans.

Recommended.

Rereading: TALES FROM EARTHSEA by Ursula K. Le Guin

Part of The Books of Earthsea beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess.

The fifth book in the Earthsea series is a collection of five stories, two of them long ones, filling in some of the history and use of magic on Earthsea. Le Guin, in her afterword, says, “It would have simplified things for my publishers and me if the fifth book of Earthsea had been a novel, but it wasn’t.”

The first story, “The Finder,” takes place 600 years before the main storyline. It tells of Otter, a young boat builder who has great innate powers of magic. He wants only to use them to improve the boats he and his family build, but when his power is noticed by the wizard Losen, employed by the local King, he is captured and brought to a mining camp where he is coerced into becoming a finder of mercury ore, the prize sought by Losen. At the time, wizards were all out for themselves, and generally employed by the rich and powerful. Otter wants to escape, and he meets a young woman with even greater innate magic. The two of them manage to bury Losen deep in the ground and leave the mine on foot, heading to a refuge in the mountains. Eventually Otter becomes a catalyst in the founding of the school of wizards on Roke that many years later will be the seat of magic power and influence in Earthsea, but Otter’s own story is a tangled one. This is the longest story.

“Darkrose and Diamond” is a love story about a boy who loves both music and magic. His father wants him to follow in his trade, but Diamond wants to play music with his sweetheart, Rose and her friends. Diamond is sent to study magic with an older wizard, and learns that to be one himself he must be celibate, something very far from what he wants.

“The Bones of the Earth” takes place on Gont some years before the main storyline, and tells of the earthquake that nearly destroyed the island’s main city and harbor, and how the power of two magicians prevented that at great cost to themselves.

“On the High Marsh” tells of a poor family who takes in a wandering mage who is only comfortable with animals. He finds a place in their village helping with a disease killing local cattle, but the people he comes in contact with fear his quick anger, and want him gone. Another mage we know well arrives to help.

“Dragonfly” tells of a young woman, on the island of Way whose family has fallen into poverty because of her father’s drinking and quarrels. A local magician from the school on Roke, Ivory, becomes enamored of her and tells her she has magical powers that should be trained. He convinces Dragonfly to come with him to Roke. His plan is to disguise her with magic as a young man so she can be trained, but the wizards of Roke soon see through her disguise. She is sent to the Immanent Grove, where she finds a home while the chief wizards decide what to do with her. Her power turns out to be something much stronger than they expect. This is the other long story.

This is a fine book, and I enjoyed rereading it. It builds on Earthsea history in interesting ways, as Le Guin turned the course of that history in a new direction.

Recommended.

For Sale: LOGO SKETCH CARDS

Images © DC Comics and Marvel Comics respectively.

Here’s something new I’m trying: LOGO SKETCH CARDS. Sketch covers are popular now, comics with a blank cover except for the printed logo and trade dress that artists do marker sketches on at conventions. I thought, why not do marker sketches of logos on cover size art paper that people could buy and use to get sketches from artists? Each card is on Strathmore 400 Series drawing paper cut to cover size. The logos are drawn with Sakura Pigma markers which use waterproof, chemical resistant, fade proof, bleed free black ink. Both paper and ink are pH neutral, acid free. Logos are all black line work except for Batman, which has a gray india ink wash. If you’re getting a color sketch from an artist, the open areas can be colored by them. If you’re getting simply a marker sketch, the logo matches, and the entire card is original art, nothing printed. Each Logo Sketch card will come on an acid free backing board in a crystal clear comics bag. I’ll be at the Baltimore ComicCon this October 18-20 as a guest, and plan to have them for sale there for $30 each. If you’re going to the con and would like to commission a particular logo, message me on Facebook or email me and we’ll work out the details. Let me know if you like this idea! Thanks. More below.

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And Then I Read: JIMMY OLSEN #2

Image © DC Comics. Written by Matt Fraction, art by Steve Lieber,
colors by Nathan Fairbairn, letters by Clayton Cowles.

Comics have changed a lot since my childhood. When reading a Jimmy Olsen comic back then, the story was completely linear and followed its own inner logic from start to finish, even if that logic was strange at times. This new JIMMY OLSEN is more like a series of vignettes, snapshots and fragments of stories. Just as much fun, and perhaps freer. We see Jimmy with Superman clowning around. When was the last time you saw a light-hearted and goofy Superman? We get snapshots of Jim’s many odd adventures. And we see the current situation of the reporter: in Gotham City, where things are not going well. Elsewhere, Lex Luthor and another Olsen discuss the city mascot destroyed in the first issue, Lois Lane is on a case, and we have another brief glimpse of Jimmy and Lex’s ancestors.

I don’t get all of it, but I like it. Recommended.