Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: THE FLASH #12

Image © DC Comics.

In the concluding third part of this storyline, Flash, Kid Flash, The Shade, Iris West and Shade’s girlfriend Hope are all trapped in a Shadow Dimension. The women have been taken over by an evil but unspecified shadow force, and the men (and boy) are being attacked by their army of shadows. Wally West and Barry Allen are still working out their relationship and finding a way to act together, even under these trying circumstances. Wally is still learning to use his powers, and some of them frighten him, like the potential to vibrate right through solid objects. Shade does not seem to be much help in this realm which supplies his own powers, and is soon carried off by the shadows. Hope and Iris are struggling mentally with the dark force inside their minds.

This storyline seemed promising to me initially, but it has developed into a rather predictable hero vs. villain escapade in which the characters are moved like pawns around the plot devices. There are a few character-building conversations, but mostly it’s all about escaping or fighting. The art by Davide Gianfelice is a mixed bag, working well in some places, looking rushed and unfocused in others. Script wise, Wally West has the best lines, but even they don’t do much to elevate the effort.

Mildly recommended.

And Then I Read: CAVE CARSON #5

Image © DC Comics.

Cave and his crew are in the underground kingdom of the Muldroog, the people from which Cave’s wife came many years ago. Cave’s daughter, Chloe, is here too, and both of them are learning new things about the history of the Muldroog, the ancient evil force known as The Whisperer that they imprisoned and guard, and why that force is about to become a threat again. Cave and Chloe are rejoined by their wife and mother, who had returned long ago to her people. Also here are another crew of underground explorers from the EBX company, bent on freeing The Whisperer and destroying the Muldroog, as well as capturing Cave and his team. When the two groups meet up, trouble happens.

I liked this issue better than the last one. The back story and characters have me interested again, even though I’m still not loving the art. It’s full of cool effects, but very abstract at times and sometimes hard to “read.” Perhaps it will grow on me. I don’t yet know why Wild Dog is in this book, but at least he fights well, so that may be it.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: THE BEE AND THE ACORN by Paula Susan Wallace

Cover art by Emily Isabella.

This is a non-fiction book, an account of the conception, founding, and development of the Savannah College of Art and Design by the woman who conceived it, was one of the four founders, and is its President today. SCAD, as it’s long been known, is one of the largest and best colleges in the world for education and career-training in arts of all kinds, with over 100 degree programs and over 12,000 students. In addition to their home base in Savannah, Georgia, they have satellite schools in Atlanta, Hong Kong, Lacoste, France, and online. The reason I read it? Ellen’s nephew is a freshman there, and next week she and I will be visiting SCAD along with Ann and Dave, the parents of student Zack. We’re looking forward to the trip, and Ann gave us this book to read about the school and the people behind it.

Paula Wallace’s story is, indeed, inspiring and amazing. She was an elementary education teacher with a big dream: to start a school for the arts. One that would be different from every other art school and university program out there: it would focus on the students, not only developing their skills and talents, but teaching them how to sell themselves and find careers. There would be no giant lecture halls, no teaching aides drawn from the student body. Classes would be small, and each taught by full professors. It would be inclusive rather than exclusive, it would spread the classroom out to the larger world, and help the community as much as the students.

Paula shared that dream with her family, and her husband Richard as well as her parents, May and Paul Poetter, agreed to help. With little money except May and Paul’s retirement nest-egg, they bought a derelict Armory in downtown Savannah in the late 1970s, a time when that part of Savannah was itself derelict and dying. They were beset with many serious difficulties: a hurricane that struck the town a few weeks before they planned to open, skepticism and distrust from some locals, doubt and disbelief in their dream from the accrediting groups that needed to approve them, and lots more. Somehow they made it work, and this book is a testament to that effort through Paula’s memories and stories. Yes, it’s slanted toward their successes, but also explains the ideas and attitudes that made the school attractive to students and successful in the long run, even with many roadblocks.

It’s a great story, and if you have any interest in the topic, or perhaps know someone who might be thinking about an arts education, I highly recommend it.

And Then I Read: ASTRO CITY 42

Image © Juke Box Productions.

Black Manta was an aquatic super-villain with lots of high-tech gear he invented, a gang of minions, and the intelligence to run a string of successful high-seas robberies. Then, during an encounter with the aquatic heroine Mermaid, he crash-landed on a deserted island far from shipping lanes, where he struggled to survive, gradually building a home for himself, and using the scant tools and materials at hand to rebuild his equipment. That was years ago. He’s the Robinson Crusoe of the series, living alone on his island, plotting and planning for his triumphant return, if he can just get his equipment working right. When a distress call from a cruise liner comes through his radio, it looks like time for action…but Manta has been out of the game, and out of the world for so long. Will he be able to do what he’s been dreaming of?

A great story by Kurt Busiek with excellent art by Matthew Clark and Sean Parsons, all under a fine cover by Alex Ross.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: ATLANTIC CIRCLE by Kathryn Lasky Knight

You’d think someone writing a travel book about sailing across the Atlantic Ocean twice in a small boat as well as through the waterways and canals of Europe would be enthusiastic about it. Not so much in this case. Kathryn’s husband Chris loves sailing, and comes from sea-faring families. Kathryn is from the midwest and happiest on land. Despite that, she agrees to Chris’s plan to sail from Massachusetts to Europe in their thirty-foot ketch. Once there they will explore the waterways of England and Europe over three summers (leaving the boat to fly home between) and finally sailing back across the ocean to the Caribbean in the fall of their third year.

Kathryn continues to tell us she is not suited for a life on the water, doesn’t like it, doesn’t want to be there. When preparing for the trip she is more concerned about how many kinds and amounts of Pepperidge Farm cookies she can pack aboard, as well as other comfort foods than preparing in other ways. Her husband Chris does all the hard work of preparing the boat, charting their course, and getting everything ready. The entire first two sections of the book, which delve deeply into family history and their relationship, and are full of complaints and denial from Kathryn, get pretty tiresome, and I almost gave up on the book several times.

Finally, in Chapter 14, page 80, they get sailing. Kathryn continues to hate the Atlantic crossing, which is admittedly rough and scary, but does write about it well. And once they arrive in England in Chapter 20, the book becomes much more fun to read. River and canal sailing are clearly much more the thing for Kathryn, and she writes appealingly about the places they go, always being sure to include lots about the food and people they meet. Travels through Europe don’t always run so smoothly, particularly in the rivers, where their small boat is often in danger of being run down and swamped by much larger ones, but the travel experience is fascinating, and well worth reading. The final Atlantic crossing goes much better than the first one, and the continued story of their lives after the epic voyage is entertaining too.

In all, I’m glad I read this, but I do prefer travel adventure books where the writer wants to be there. Kathryn and Chris are still together, surprisingly, as I learned on her website. The book was published in 1985, and the author has written many more books, mostly for children, under the name Kathryn Lasky.

Recommended.