WHAT I READ ON MY SUMMER VACATION
Not many blogs, certainly. And very few comics, for that matter. I did read the Wanted trade. I know; I was warned. Even so, my expectations were too high; and I'm a man of simple tastes, who can be distracted by pretty explosions done right. I like my fireworks, narrative and otherwise. And the book fails at even this, which is a shame, because at least competent boom-bap would have partially disguised the abject failure of the books argument. The last two pages of the book are a standard issue, though more explicit than normal "you are all pathetic sheep who refuse to seize the power given you" critique of modern consumer culture; all of us sheeple are contrasted with Wesley, who, after an issue of enduring race, gender, and competency related humiliations, has freed himself from the bourgeois rules by force of arms; he (literally) stops being screwed and starts doing the screwing. But what lesson is there? Wesley has the magic ticket; he's in essence given his freedom when he finds out that he is The World's! Greatest! Killer! Which of course makes it much easier to get make your own way in the world. The rest of us? Well, I guess we continue to get screwed, since power is the coin that pays the way out. Odd that Millar, avowed semi-socialist that he is, doesn't seem to see that he's making the same argument as any number of right-wingers, the one in which rich men, many of whom did not earn their positions, rail at the poor for not helping themselves sufficiently.
What else? Steve Niles' Secret Skull. Competent, though man would I have been mad had I paid what IDW wanted for the trade; story value is perhaps a third of what was charged. Nice coloring job, though, a cartoon version of the graveyard palette. Street Angel was nice; not up the expectations the relentless internet hyping saddled it with, but still: nice. It was, at times, I thought, too knowingly wacky for its own good, particularly the second issue; this problem was minimized as the volume went on, and later segments felt much more organic. The broken up lettering was a neat design element, though overused. And I demand, demand, damn it, to see the basketball skills put to use.
And that's it for comics. Actually, not quite. I cranked through Thomas Ott's Cinema Panopticon prior to leaving. That book is an object lesson in the triumph of technique over content. A series of semi-horrific vignettes, told in wood cut, or so it appears. The stories are nothing special; typical EC style twisters. But the wood cut illustration lends these twice told tales weight they likely don't deserve; the stark, wavy lines are at once realistic and abstract. The art distorts from the real world in a way that highlights the surreality of the stories. Objects are recognizable but somehow wrong. I don't think that the story content could bear any sort of weight with a different art style.
I had substantially better luck with books. Flew through The Smartest Guys in the Room, about Enron, which turned out to be the scariest book I've read in years; a big red flashing reminder that the customer is not always right; that the customer is sometimes, in fact, really, really wrong. There's a lesson there for Alberto Gonzalez, should he choose to heed it. Less terrifying but still scary by virtue of personal interest is Evan Wright's Generation Kill, about Marines in Iraq; my brother in law should wrap boot camp next week, then on to Camp Lejeune. I wonder how much the soldiers in the book are products of the Marines, and how much of their attitude was concrete pre-enlistment. I wonder if it's even possible for him to come back as the same person I knew.
Read George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords. I'd resisted reading more fantasy for years, until the first book in this series. And now I'm nosing around the fantasy rack in Borders, sheepishly looking at spines. I know, just know, that I'm heading for a bad reading experience; several, likely. If the fourth book would come out sooner, I'd be able to better control this reawakened fantasy monkey on my back, but no....now release is in November sometime. Rats.
And lastly, read Melville's The Confidence Man. Who knew it was a non-fiction account of the Karl Rove era? Not me. Depressing, somehow, to realize that the tactics may change but the game never does.