Category Archives: Reviews

And Then I Read: HABIBI by Craig Thompson

This and all images © Craig Thompson.

Habibi is an amazing work on many levels. There are over 650 pages each completely written, drawn, lettered and inked by Craig Thompson, a feat in itself. For this project, Thompson immersed himself in Islamic art and lettering, and the results are present on nearly every page in stunningly intricate work, like this one:

Thompson also shows and tells us some of the things he learned from the language and lettering as here:

In addition to the exploration of the religion and culture of Islam, and the book includes stories from the Qur’an and The Bible, Thompson seems to have been equally inspired by western Orientalism, things like The Arabian Nights. Tales of that sort are here as well. Then there’s the Arabian mathematics embodied in magic squares and patterns that run through the work.

That’s perhaps half the focus, the other being a story of a young woman and a younger boy thrown together by loss and hardship, first living together in the desert, then separately in a city until their paths cross again. Dodola and Zam have only each other for much of the story, trying to survive against all odds, and through all the cruelties and tragedies thrown at them. Their story covers decades and has all the ups and downs of epic melodrama, while they also seem to represent archetypes beyond their daily lives, as the heroes and heroines of legend and fable do in so many stories. That aspect of the book meanders at times, and dips in and out of the characters’ lives.

Habibi has been criticized as furthering Islamic stereotypes, and I can’t speak to that. I can only say I am astonished by the work and enjoyed reading it. I will remember it and think about it for a long time, I think. And, wow, is the art and lettering terrific!

And Then I Read: JIMMY OLSEN #5

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

This is the Saturday Night Live of comics, back when it was funny. Not content to wreak havoc in Metropolis, Jimmy is now extending his chaos to Batman’s Gotham City. Batman is not amused with Olsen live blog events like “How Many Jokers Can We Fit Inside This Frozen Yogurt Shop Before Batman Notices?” Continuing as a series of vignettes, several in the issue also focus on Bruce Wayne/Batman with amusing clarity. The Bat’s attempts at humor are priceless. Back in Metropolis, Jimmy’s scheme for avoiding trouble by staging his own funeral blow up…literally. And in olden day Metropolis, star-crossed lovers from the Olsen and Luthor feuding families attempt to get married. In Gotham, we also meet Jimmy’s goth sister Janey for more laughs.

I am really having a good time reading this series. Recommended.

Rereading: THE STARS MY DESTINATION by Alfred Bester

I read this first as a teenager, but not since. It came up as a favorite of several friends, so I thought it was time to read it again. I’m glad I did.

As the story opens, Mechanic’s Mate 3rd Class Gulliver Foyle has been adrift in a wrecked spaceship in the asteroid belt of our solar system for 170 days. That he’s still alive is due to his tenacious will and stubborn refusal to give up. Only a small part of the ship is habitable, his supplies are almost gone, but he’s hanging on. Foyle, “Gully” as he’s known, is a simple working man, born and raised in the gutters, with no education or ambition. He’s 30 years old and has made a life for himself in the spaceways until now. He doesn’t even know why his ship, the Nomad, was wrecked. He won’t last much longer. Suddenly another ship appears near his course, close enough to read her name, Vorga. He hails it, sends up flares, pleads for rescue, but is ignored. Thus is born Gully Foyle’s fury and desire for revenge on this callous act that will fuel escape by his own cunning, and fuel his deadly quest for the rest of the book. That quest will take him back to Earth, allow him to learn to jaunt, or teleport himself from place to place around that planet, and send him deep into the lives of several wealthy men and smart women involved in interplanetary trade. Along the way, Foyle will end up in prison, in a circus of his own creation, in the board rooms of the powerful, and in an interplanetary war. Through it all his singular purpose drives him like a tiger after its prey. Because of it he is changed in many ways, and his path will draw others in its wake, some to destruction, some to glory.

Still an amazing read, and not very dated. Highly recommended.

And Then I Read: LIVEWIRE FUGITIVE

Image © Valiant. Written by Vita Ayala, art by Raúl Allén and Patricia Martin,
letters by Saida Temofonte, cover by Adam Pollina

I received this trade paperback collecting the first four issues of the LIVEWIRE series at the ‘Ringo Awards. I don’t follow Valiant comics, having read only one previous collection, and this one did not give me an easy way to get up to speed. There is a brief bio of the character, but the story jumps into a continuity that obviously happened in some other series, but that’s never identified or made clear. Despite that, I enjoyed the writing and the art.

Amanda McKee is a psiot (hero with mental powers) known as Livewire, who can control any digital device or system. Apparently she and her friends were put in a corner by the U.S. Government, and to allow them to escape, Livewire shut down the entire electrical grid for the country. This caused a number of deaths from various causes. Now the psiots are on the run, and when Amanda tries to gather her psiot friends in a safe location, she finds they too want nothing more to do with her because of her actions. Soon Amanda is being hunted by another superhuman who has powers equalling her own, and she finds herself captured, powerless, and in more trouble than she’s ever imagined.

Recommended, despite the unclear story origins.

And Then I Read: THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

The second book of the Winternight Trilogy takes the story from the forests and small villages of mediaeval Russia (then known as The Rus’) to the large city of Moscow. Large for the time, but still a relatively small city behind walls to keep out enemies and ruled by Grand Prince Dmitrii. His wife is Olga, one of the family followed in the first book. Her brother Sasha is now a monk, but one that wears a sword and fights alongside his friend and cousin Dmitrii against raiders who are pillaging small villages in the area. Meanwhile, their sister Vasya, the one with arcane powers both innate and given to her by Morosko, the Frost King, is determined to see the world beyond her small village. She rides out on her magic talking horse, Solovey, and for a while they have adventures and narrow escapes from capture, and avoid starving and freezing with Morosko’s help. At length Vasya, disguised as a boy, joins forces with Dmitrii and her brother Sasha, helping to fight the barbarian raiders. When they all arrive back in Moscow, Vasya’s adventure becomes much more complicated and perilous, especially when her true identity is found out. Soon Vasya is surrounded by enemies: her old foe the priest Konstantin, a wily sorcerer and a Tatar warlord, while her family seems set against her. Worst of all, Morosko has little power to help her in Moscow.

This was a good read. At times I thought Vasya seemed fussy and spoiled, unable to make the wisest choices and putting those close to her in danger, but that works itself out as the story moves on to an epic conclusion. I will be reading the third book soon. Recommended.