104 in 2014: May

So, a busy month for the challenge! Finally I’ve managed to either read, or try and then reject, my requisite number of books.

35   Batman : Knight and Squire

This is a graphic novel for fans of Batman, but it’s a pastiche, and doesn’t require you to be familiar with the intricate continuity of the Batman comics. It’s about British equivalents to Batman and Robin, called Knight and Squire. It begins in a pub, where the first Thursday of every month there’s a truce between the heroes and villains.   The arc is about a final crime spree by Jarvis Poker, the British Joker. He’s a villain, but more an admirer of the style of the American Joker than an actual follower. He thinks killing people is terrible, for example. I really enjoyed this. I liked how the British characters in the book were able to reflect on some of the weirder parts of American graphic novel writing. Available from the Library Service.

36   Avengers : Children’s Crusade

So, Marvel fans know that the Scarlet Witch went insane, killed a lot of heroes, wrecked the world twice. She is in an upcoming movie, so she needs to be reset to heroic. Time for some authors to spackle over the cracks and retcon like crazy. If you’re a long-term reader, you know this is going to happen: all movement in graphic novels is pendulous. The question is if the writers can pull off the retcon in an interesting way.

My feeling is that it was slightly too long, and at its core was unsatisfying. A rework needs to be clever enough that you either say “That’s plausible. Well played.” or “This makes no sense but I am enjoying this so much I don’t care.” I think the end, where an established villain takes all of the culpability for himself, is weak. He doesn’t explain how he engineered events: merely that he did. That’s neither intricate not amusing.

The writers had a tough gig, because they aren’t just trying to rehabilitate one character, they are trying to make three different characters movie-ready. Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch’s brother, had a villainous turn, which has been reversed. Due to various strangenesses of licensing he was in X-Men: Days of Future Passed, and will be in Avengers 3, but with a completely different actor, costume and backstory. According to the villain who sucks up all of the blame at the end of the story, he’s in some way not culpable for his on-panel actions during company-wide crossover events. There’s not even the fig-leaf of a clone or a robot duplicate or a mind-controlling yellow demon. It was all this other guy, somehow.

They also needed to work in a reset for the Ant-Man franchise. They work it in, but it’s not particularly interesting.

So, although the Library Service has it, I’d skip straight ahead to Young Avengers Volume II (Style > Substance), which leads into a trilogy which have far more interesting character development, because they aren’t working so hard to reset to zero. The other parts of the trilogy are Alternative Culture and Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space.

37   Card Trick by John Berryman

A simple little sci-fi story, that could have been a short story but somehow stretched out into a little novella. It’s about a gambler who is thrown out of a game because he is telekinetic. and how that impacts his not-quite romantic relationship with a scientist who studies telekinesis. I liked that the author didn’t feel the need to draw out his twists. Worth the time if you are into early sci-fi with a bit of noir attitude. Available through Internet Archive (free e-book) and Librivox (free audio).

38   Philo Gubb : Correspondence School Detective

I gave this book up after the second chapter. Imagine Forrest Gump as a detective, but without the folksy wisdom. Imagine a comedic bit being played over and over and over. Then add a bit of racism, and then some fetishization of a woman of non-conventional shape, and it all becomes a bit too wearysome. Available through Internet Archive (free e-book) and Librivox (free audio).

39   Mr. Punch’s Dramatic Sequels by Hankin St John.

This work is a series of short sequels to popular plays. I really enjoyed the parts of this I understood, but the plays are those selected at the publication date, and so some have faded from the theatre-going landscape. I most enjoyed his Hamlet, where Hortatio (unexpectedly king) is hosting Fortinbras. He refuses to go inside Elsinore because the ghost of old Hamlet has been joined by the ghosts of Gertrude, Ophelia, Claudius, Polonius and Hamlet, and he can’t get a minute’s peace. I listened ot the chapters for play I knew, and avoided those I didn’t, and that worked well for me. Available through Internet Archive (free e-book) and Librivox (free audio).

To round out the numbers, four books that were reviewed in their own posts:

40 The Shambling Guide to New York City

41 Paper Towns by John Green

42 Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury

43 Doctor Who : 11 Doctors 11 Stories by Various (which meets the challenge quota of a book from my collection finally finished)

I also finally gave up on The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a good story, and the reader is excellent, but after putting in a solid 26 hours, I’m not feeling the desire to continue. The plot proceeds with a glacial slowness. A glacial slowness reminiscent of a pair of authors who are unable to prevent themselves from describing every tiny thing. A pair of authors like a frog and a toad in a garden who sit on the opposite corners of a square tile in a garden. A pair of authors who sit like a frog and toad and describe every tiny thing repeatedly, in circular ways, repeatedly.