Are You Ready?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

It's that time of year! There's only one short week until one of the happiest days on the geek's calendar: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

Do you know where to go on May 7th to get your free comic(s)?

The Free Comic Book Day Website has a store locator for your convenience, as well as a list of some comics you might see. (not all books are available in all locations)

If you haven't read comics in a while, or don't think you're interested, this is your chance to give it a try, for FREE.

I'm lucky, because in NYC the comic stores are very generous with their loot. Check out my posts about last year's haul: Part One, Part Two

FCBD Comics I'm especially looking forward to this year:
(Many of these issues have preview pages up on the FCBD site!)

Avatar: the Last Airbender/Clone Wars (A:TLA COMIC! WHOOO!!!)
Darkwing Duck/Chip n'Dale (This will probably be a reprint of stuff I have, but if you're not reading this yet, pick up the freebie!)
Mouse Guard/Dark Crystal (OMG SO PRETTY, and there's a NEW Mouse Guard story? YAY!)
Atomic Robo (Always entertaining)
The Misadventures of Adam West (Because the title is too funny not to seek this one out)

But I'll read them ALL, as always, and post my reactions afterward.

I love Free Comic Book Day! I got the Flash pin I wear on my jacket on a Free Comic Book Day, and some places give out posters and some places have signings...

Do you have plans for your Free Comic Book Day?

Follow Friday April 29

Thursday, April 28, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

Q. Keeping with the dystopian and apocalypse theme that seems to be running rampant on, I have one very hard question for you: If you were stocking your bomb shelter, what books would you HAVE to include if you only had space for ten?

Okay, I'm assuming we're talking about physical books, not digital. So, books I am willing to/enjoy reading ad infinitum:

The Complete Sherlock Holmes
Five Selections from The Vorkosigan Saga: Cordelia's Honor, Miles, Mystery and Mayhem, Miles Errant, Memory, Miles in Love
My Husband's two novels, for sentimental reasons: For Love of Children, Facsimile

So that's already eight.

Let's cap it off with a giant tome on edible and medicinal plants, and a book I saw at the library but can't remember the name of about primitive living/survival techniques. I did in fact see this book and think: "Huh, if society were to collapse I would totally try to steal this book from the library."

Of course, if I couldn't get those last two, I might settle for Little House on the Prairie, for shelter building advice, and...why not? The good old 2nd Edition D&D PHB. Because if you were stuck in a bomb shelter for a while, it'd get really boring without something to do. 

(Thinking a little further, yeah, if I were planning to rebuild society singlehandedly I'd probably drop three of the Vorkosigan books in favor of a Complete Shakespeare, LOTR and a Treasury of Classic Children's Literature... But just for me, my list stands.) 

Comics Briefly: Age of X Universe #2, American Vampire #14, New Mutants #24 (Age of X Chapter 6), Ruse #2

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Favorite Issue this week: New Mutants #24 (Age of X Chapter 6)

All books new in store on 4/27/11

Age of X Universe #2
Avengers (part 2) Written by Simon Spurrier, Penciled by Khoi Pham, Inked by Tom Palmer, Colored by Sonia Oback
Dazzler Written by Chuck Kim, Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta

The second half of the alt-world Avengers story was both better and worse than Part One. I think it slipped over the line into too heavy-handed and obvious in its morality, but your mileage may vary. Some of the moments were still very nice, plus the art was great. The Dazzler story was fine in the writing, but it was a style of art I don't really like, so the issue was sort of a wash overall.

American Vampire #14 (Ghost War Part 2)
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Rafael Albuqueque, Colors by Dave McCaig

Mmmm, another tasty issue of American Vampire. I either read this first or save it for last, it's always good. The art, the tone, the dialogue, all good. Plus my girl Pearl being awesome as usual. I'm so excited to find out what happens next! The only fault here is that I want more right now, and these issues feel just a smidge short at 20 pages.

New Mutants #24 (Age of X Chapter 6)
Written by Mike Carey, Penciled by Steve Kurth
Inked by Allen Martinez, Colored by Brian Reber

This is the end of the Age of X alternate-world story, and I really enjoyed it. Even though I've only been reading scattered bits of the X-folks for a while now, the ending of this was very homey for me; it felt good. I'm intrigued by the lingering plot fragments, and the climax of the battle was awesome. Great finale all around, and I am definitely going to consider picking up more X:Men Legacy as it picks up from this.

Ruse #2
Written by Mark Waid, Art by Mirco Pierfederici

This was a solid issue, but nothing exceptional. I like the concept enough to probably see it through the end of the four issue mini-series, though. The writing is quite strong.

Also Considered:
Wonder Woman  #611
Written by J. Michael Straczynski and Phil Hester; Art by Don Kramer and Jay Leisten
I'm still not keen on huge aspects of this plot. In fact, I'm unsure what exactly happened in this issue. Also, I'm beginning to think that DC should take the letters pages away again, since the responses often make them look like pretentious jerks. However, the cape? I love the cape.

Flash #11
Written by Geoff Johns; Art by Francis Manapul
Okay issue, not much happened, good if slightly sappy writing.

Detective Comics #876
Written by Scott Snyder; Art and cover by Jock
I've been hearing nothing but good things about this run, and it seems like really good stuff but not quite a jumping on point in this issue.

Top Ten Tuesday - Mean Girls

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week's Prompt:

"Top Ten Mean Girls In Books (all those snotty, annoying girls that you just want to punch)"

Hmmm. Stereotypical "Mean Girls"? Who are impressive or iconic enough to make a Top Ten List? They don't tend to come up much in the genres I read... Besides, for me to want to punch a character, they usually have to be a lot more evil, cruel and (most of all) powerful than is generally encompassed by the term "Mean Girl".

I need to take a moment here and break down this archetype. Such a character is usually: female, pretty, cruel about shallow concerns, set against the protagonist, manipulative, snarky, sarcastic or just bitchy, often considered popular. She takes pleasure in putting others down. She is usually not in a position of ultimate power, or out to conquer the world; she generally just wants to help herself out.

Hmmm... Off the top of my head:

1: Classic: Cinderella's Stepsisters are one of the earliest examples of this type I can think of, though they're not exactly developed characters.

2: However, in The Stepsister Scheme, Cindy's stepsister Charlotte is given a name, backstory, borrowed magic and a vicious motivation, and she's impressively cruel.

3: The mean girls in Carrie come to mind, although they didn't make enough of an impression for me to remember any names or personal characteristics.

4: Stella Vatta (Vatta's War) is a shallow girl who makes good. She starts out a catty, flirtatious young woman with a history of strife with her cousin Kylara (she was the mean one in their relationship), but after she has to stand in loco parentis to a young relative, she finds the internal strength and smarts to lead the rebuilding of her family's business empire (while Ky, the main character, is off fighting pirates). She's using her people manipulation skills for the good of the clan.

5: There's a scattering of voluptuous flunkies and bitchy minor characters throughout the Anita Blake series that might qualify, but I think the Big Bads, while often cruel and petty, are too powerful to come under this heading.

Alright, it's time to expand the definition a smidge. The following are Magnificent Bitches: (You may not like them, but you've gotta admire their style.)

6: Kitiara Uth Matar (Dragonlance) Half the time she's a hard-ass warrior woman, and half the time she's manipulating every male she runs across with her sex appeal and devious smarts. Okay, usually both at once.

7: Cavilo (The Vor Game) runs her outfit of interstellar mercenaries with a level of sophisticated manipulation that the other characters can't help but admire, even as she destroys their plans and backstabs everyone in sight. "You know Cavilo?...Face like an angel, mind like a rabid mongoose?"

8: Emma Frost (X-Men Comics) aka The White Queen. In her early days, Emma was one of the nastiest telepaths the X-Men tangled with, and a trainer of young supervillains. Now she's one of the good guys, but that just means she can use her scathing wit to cut down the main characters in person. Her proteges, the Stepford Cuckoos, are classic Mean Girls in turn.

I'm sure I'm missing some obvious ones, but that's what I've got for now. Who did I forget?

The Handmaid's Tale

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood, 1985

I need a hug now.

All I can say is Wow. Amazing. Breathtaking. Setting new standards for the word “wow.” They weren't kidding about the whole “instant classic” thing.

But it's definitely depressing. I read this book over two days, and on the night in between I had nightmares.

Premise: In a future spun off from the rising conservatism and backlash against feminism in the 1980's, human fertility is very low, and social unrest is very high. One conservative group has taken over the government, set up their own compounds, and upended American life. The narrator of this story, called Offred, is a Handmaid, a kind of limited concubine, who is assigned to a high-ranking figure because she is fertile, and his wife isn't. Her husband was taken from her. It was his second marriage, so they said it didn't count. Her daughter was taken from her. She herself was sent to a facility where they attempted to brainwash her. This is her account of a few months of her life.

I loved the structure of the narrative, although I never quite got used to the fact that quotation marks were used only sporadically. The narrator tells you her story as it occurs to her. She relates her day-to-day life, interspersed with things she remembers as she goes. Slowly the picture of her world is built, in fragments crystallizing one by one.

I don't even know what to say here. I'm still digesting the book. She never tells you her name. Some readers have guessed possibilities, but she never tells you. She is herself, and anyone.

Probably the most affecting scene for me (besides the ending) was during one of the flashbacks, as the narrator is remembering the actual transition, when an extremely conservative religious group overthrows the government in a coup, and then removes all women's agency, quickly, before they can react.
Luke knelt beside me and put his arms around me. I heard, he said, on the car radio, driving home. Don't worry, I'm sure it's temporary.
Did they say why? I said.
He didn't answer that. We'll get though it, he said, hugging me.
You don't know what it's like, I said. I feel as if somebody cut off my feet. I wasn't crying. Also, I couldn't put my arms around him.
It's only a job, he said, trying to soothe me.
I guess you get all my money, I said. And I'm not even dead. I was trying for a joke, but it came out sounding macabre.
Hush, he said. He was still kneeling on the floor. You know I'll always take care of you.
I thought, Already he's starting to patronize me. Then I thought, Already you're starting to get paranoid.
I know, I said. I love you. -pages 205-206

I'm going to read it again, just to absorb it more thoroughly, but first I'm going to spend some time with some more hopeful books.

5 Stars

Read this book.

The Handmaid's Tale is available on

Follow Friday/Book Blogger Hop April 22

Friday, April 22, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

Q. What is on your current playlist right now?
I've been having a showtunes sort of week, listening to a lot of tracks I haven't heard in a while. I just read Finishing the Hat (review coming eventually), and I've been listening to big chunks of Sondheim on random shuffle, particularly Merrily We Roll Along, Follies, Sondheim on Sondheim and Company.

Book Blogger HopThe Book Blogger Hop is hosted at

Today's Question is:

"If you find a book you love, do you hunt down other books by the same author?"

But of course! It's the quickest way to add to the reading list. I don't necessarily run right out and buy more books that second, but I'll put in a request at the library or check the pricing on my Kindle. I tend to go through phases either of a particular author or a particular genre, where I'll read a bunch of the same style books in a row. Authors that I really REALLY love, I collect and re-read their books. Earlier this month I may have... uh... re-read almost the entire Vorkosigan Saga (14 books of 16) over about two weeks.

Comics Briefly: Avengers Academy #12, Darkwing Duck #11, Power Girl #23

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Favorite Issue This Week: Arrgh! The three books I bought this week were all awesome, but so different in tone, it's almost impossible to compare them. My favorite might be Avengers Academy #12, for the way the issue interacts with the continuing series, but it's very close.

All Books new in stores on 4/20/11

FYI: Graphic Novel in stores this week: Darkwing Duck 2: Crisis on Infinite Darkwings (Collects Second Story Arc) Available for Pre-Order on If you were a fan of the cartoon show, you need to be reading this comic.

Avengers Academy #12
Writer: Christos Gage, Penciler: Tom Raney
Inker: Scott Hanna, Colorist: Jeromy Cox

This was a fantastic issue. Carina (cosmic chick) has temporarily given the students the appearance and abilities of their older selves, and not everyone is pleased with what they learn about their possible futures. Everyone got some nice character moments, plus a brutal battle. Some of the best writing of teenage characters in comics is in this book, although the art is often a little shaky.

Darkwing Duck #11
Writer: Ian Brill
Artist: James Silvani, Colorist: Lisa Moore

This book is 22 packed pages of awesome. I had to count to check that it wasn't an extra long issue, so much happened. Gosalyn and Honker take on Ammonia Pine, Morgana and Launchpad investigate the zombified townspeople, meanwhile Darkwing and Steelbeak reach the heart of F.O.W.L. Headquarters. This continues to be one of the most reliably enjoyable books I collect. Easter eggs in the art for Disney fans just give it that extra edge of fun.

Power Girl #23
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Sami Basri, Colorist: Jessica Kholinne

I read the preview for this issue online and was so tickled that I picked it up. Superman and Zatanna guest star, and both are used well. The art is clean and playful, which matches the tone of the writing. I don't know much about what's been going on with Power Girl, but I really enjoyed the quick pace and snappy dialogue in this issue.

Also Considered:
Supergirl #63
Written by James Peaty; Art by Bernard Chang

After last month's rather boring issue, (writeup here) I only flipped through this one in the store. I think the reveal on the villain was boring, and other than that nothing happened in the whole issue. Maybe I'll check out Supergirl again in a couple months; there's a new creative team taking on the next arc.

Storm Over Warlock

Monday, April 18, 2011

Storm Over Warlock
Andre Norton, 1960

At some point I realized that a handful of Andre Norton's books had somehow fallen out of copyright in the US.  Don't bother with the crummy formatting done by the people selling them on the Kindle Store, just check for free copies.

Premise: Although he had been the lowliest member of the expedition to the planet Warlock, Shann Lantree is the only survivor of the attack. After humanity's rivals, the insectoid Throgs, take over the survey camp, Shann has to decide if he can strike back, and how. Of course, the situation is complicated when it turns out that Warlock isn't an uninhabited planet after all.

This was a fun, fast-paced read, and I really enjoyed it. The bits of Shann's backstory are all we really need; no time is wasted on early exposition. His perspective is not always noble, his plans are not always clear even to himself. Also, he's accompanied  by two trained wolverines. I found Shann to be a unique protagonist, whose observations really give this book its color.

I had planned to just read the first few chapters when I opened the book, but ended up not putting the Kindle down until I was finished.

The lizard-like matriarchs of Warlock deal in dreams and psychic powers, and the book gradually switches from just a survival adventure into a first-contact story, which I really liked. All the descriptions of alien life on the planet are both inventive and easy to picture.

This is the kind of thing I go to Norton for: solid sci-fi with simply, yet carefully, drawn characters and an intriguing twist.

3 Stars – A Good Book

Download for free from manybooks 

Bright of the Sky

Friday, April 15, 2011

Bright of the Sky (Book One of The Entire and The Rose)
Kay Kenyon, 2007

Premise: Two years and a bit ago, Titus Quinn, starship pilot, vanished, along with wife, child and ship. A few months later he was picked up on another planet, raving about having spent ten years prisoner in a parallel dimension. Now the company he worked for suddenly thinks there might be something to this theory, and Quinn is going back, ostensibly to negotiate for routes that humans can use for travel, but really to look for his lost family.

I picked this up as a Kindle Freebie. I'm not sure it was worth free.

The “Entire,” the other dimension, is an interesting construction much of the time. Ruled by the alien Tarig, it seems to be a universe entirely composed of one twisty landscape. The sky is not a sky, but a river of ever-burning energy, and the “storm walls” keep the Entire structural where it touches our universe. (The whole thing is based vaguely on brane theory. It even cites the name.) The denizens of the Entire include many different types of sentient beings, and they call our universe The Rose, because they have no flowers. (Don't ask me how their plants work.)

Meanwhile, the future human universe is a semi-dystopian Big Business style society. It's not interesting, and the characters based there are two-dimensional and dull.

The narrative voice, however, is the worst part of this book. It's by turns familiar and pretentious, with occasional lapses into unearned poetry. The character focus changes somewhat randomly, which means that I end up knowing things about minor character's motivations that are unnecessary or would be better seen from a different character's point of view. I hate that. Yes, it's a pet peeve of mine, but I think it's a fair one. Don't switch your character focus in the middle of a scene! If you have to tell me what the other character thought, do it later: have her talk to a third character or think to herself later about how happy/angry/excited she is. Don't switch your close focus back and forth. Some authors can do this and not have it feel wrong; most can't.

The characters, particularly Titus, are largely unlikeable, and it takes forever for the story to pick up speed. About halfway through it starts to pick up a little, and then the author kept ruining it with idiotic asides.
They faced off, each with his own view of the world. Of course it could not be the same view.
The chapters about Sydney (Titus' daughter who grew up alone in the Entire) are the best, but boil down to fairly normal fantasy cliches (imprisoned daughter has destiny, inner strength, blah blah), and the occasional step back to the normal universe to catch up with the utterly forgettable characters there is terrible.

There were a few strong ideas here, but it never pulled off any interesting or tense scenes.

1 Star – Didn't Much Like This

More about Bright of the Sky on

Comics Briefly: Batgirl #20, Birds of Prey #11, X-Men Legacy #247 (Age of X 5)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Favorite Issue this Week: Birds of Prey #11

All books were new in stores on 4/13/11

Batgirl #20
Writer: Bryan Q. Miller
Artist: Ramon Bach, Colorist: Guy Major

Overall this was a good issue, although it didn't quite wow me. Stephanie is competent as well as funny and charming, and the scene with her and Babs is cute. The fact that she has a transforming combat vehicle is...odd. I will happily admit, this book does badass-girly better than almost anything else, and the climax of this issue was awesome.

Birds of Prey #11
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Pere Perez, Colors: Nei Ruffino

It's the Huntress/Catman crossover issue! And it's almost note perfect from panel one. The very last page lost me a little, not sure why. I guess it was merely good, rather than great, but I enjoyed everything else about this. Huntress is in her element, busting ground-level thugs, rescuing hostages. Catman is his conflicted self, while Babs and Dinah are delightful in their side scene. In sum: great issue, shaky last page.

It was a slightly sour note to see a reader with constructive, friendly criticism sort of blown off on the letters page, but that's the dark side of letters pages. I think you were right on, Amy Wakano, and in this issue there was even some of what you asked about: more character moments outside of action. The people writing the responses to the letters are dumb.

X-Men Legacy #247 (Age of X Chapter 5)
Written by Mike Carey, Pencils: Clay Mann
Inks: Jay Leisten, Colors: Brian Reber

Exposition! I was just ho-hum about all the actual plot reveals in this next-to-last installment, but something about the tone was spot-on to me. The character beats were really good, and the art continues to be fantastic. Yeah, I don't know enough about some aspects of the X-men corner of Marvel to fully understand all of the revelations, but that's okay. The ads in the back of the book for upcoming issues of ongoing series make me suspect I'm going to be spending a bit more time there after Age of X is done.

Also Considered:

Flash #10
Written by Geoff Johns; Art by Francis Manapul

I read this (and the issue before) in preparation for Flashpoint, the upcoming event. It was a pretty solid little book: enjoyable, well plotted, good character beats. The double/triple use of the word Keystone was nice, and I tittered when it was revealed that alt-universe Flash has a Cosmic Motorcycle.

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I'd Like to See as Movies

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This Week: Top Ten Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies 

As usual, in no particular order:

1. The Warrior's Apprentice (Miles Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold)

2. The Last Unicorn (Peter S. Beagle)
Yup, there's already an animated movie, but there was almost a live action one. It was rumored that it would star some of the same cast and everything. Angela Lansbury! Christopher Lee! I saw CGI tests online... and then something must have fallen through, because I haven't heard anything about it since around 2005.

3. The Exploits and Adventures of Brigadier Gerard (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Period Comedy Adventure! This could be the next PotC, people.

4. X:Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (Chris Claremont and John Byrne)
Grrrr....Only it's never going to happen now, because they wasted the decent setup Singer had going with that horrible terrible no-good very bad &#*!?%$#*!! excuse for a film. </nerdrage>

5. The Dark Tower (Stephen King)
Casting news is moving forward, so it looks like this one might actually happen, and they have a decent plan! Whoo-hoo!

6. Dragonlance: Chronicles (Weis and Hickman)
By my hugely optimistic math, we're on track for a live-action movie premiering in 2030.

7. The Book of Three (Lloyd Alexander)
The Prydain Chronicles could take the big budget family movie treatment, if they can avoid the problems/mistakes made by The Golden Compass and Narnia.

8. Foreigner (C.J. Cherryh)
Someone should use the facial motion capture tech from Avatar to adapt this intelligent science fiction novel about alien politics and culture. I want someone to make this just to see people's reactions when nothing blows up.

9. Trading in Danger (Elizabeth Moon)
On the other hand, lots of stuff can blow up in this movie. I was a bit tepid on the rest of the series (review), but it could be a great sci-fi action flick with a kick-ass female protagonist. Really, you could adapt any of Moon's books that star badass ladies (which might be all of them) and that'd be fine with me.

10. The Spy Who Loved Me (Ian Fleming)
Yeah, I know Fleming specifically asked them never to turn this into a movie, and it probably shouldn't be an official Bond flick. However, I think the story, about an adventurous-minded woman, who for one frightening evening crosses paths with a pair of murderous goons and a mysterious and deadly gentleman, could make a great flick. I think it has to be a period piece, though, because a lot of what is great about it is Vivianne's tangled 50's-60's backstory, the meaning and weight of her lovers and life choices are dependent on living in that world.

Bone (Complete Series, Volumes 1-9)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bone (Complete Series, Volumes 1-9, Scholastic Printing)
Jeff Smith, (collected editions released 1995-2004, 
colored editions released 2005-2009)

I am one of a very small number of people who bought the Disney Adventures magazine in the mid-90's. (Yes, I was a teenager. I was still into all things Disney.) At the time, my favorite part were the comic snippets at the end. I saved the pages of Bone that were printed there for years. It took me way too long to get around to actually reading the whole thing. I found my excuse this month: a local comic shop had a huge sale, and I bought most of the series there, grabbing the rest on Amazon.

Premise: Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone have been chased out of their hometown of Boneville, but they stumble into a valley where strange and wonderful creatures live. They quickly make both friends and enemies, but it soon becomes clear that there are factions in the valley with dark plans moving against the inhabitants, and the Bones are going to be in the center of the coming conflict.

I don't even know what to say here. This is a fantastic series that takes a style reminiscent of old “funny animal” comics and spins it up into a fantasy epic.  It's funny and sweet, and the art is gorgeous.

I really loved reading the whole thing through. It's a quick read, but I found myself going back to re-read sections just for fun, and lingering over particularly beautiful panels.

It gets dark faster than I anticipated from my dusky memories, but generally keeps a very nice balance between building tension and comic relief. It flirts with the problem that Mouse Guard occasionally has: the line between seeming deep and seeming pretentious.  I didn't feel that it stepped over the line, but others' mileage may vary a little there.

I love the character designs so much. The Bones, the dragons, and of course the Rat Creatures are all fantastic.

These books are appropriate for kids, but definitely enjoyable by all ages. Really the best endorsement I can give is to offer you a few snippets from Book One (click to expand):

I really loved this series, and I'm thrilled that I finally own it.

5 Stars – Amazing Books

Buy Bone Boxed Set Books 1-3 on

Follow Friday April 8

Thursday, April 7, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

Do You Judge a Book by its Cover?

Yes, much of the time. I mean, a poorly done cover isn't a guarantee I won't read the book, but if I'm in a store or the library, it means I probably won't pick it up. Online or on the Kindle Store, I more use cover art as a quick judge of genre if I'm not sorting by genre. For example, when I'm clicking through cheap or free books, I won't click on any romance or lit-fic looking covers. 

For ebooks I'm more likely to buy/read based on the description than the cover, but I'll still judge the cover. If it looks like complete crap, that could be an indication of the quality of the writing, so it has to be a consideration.

Comics Briefly: Budget Cuts: Batman Beyond #4, Fear Itself #1

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

No books I wanted enough to buy this week, although I do want to mention the new graphic novel collection for Star Trek: Khan - Ruling in Hell. It's in comic shops starting today, or you can pre-order it on Amazon. I have the issues, and it's a lovely miniseries.

Issues below were new in stores on 4/6/11

Batman Beyond #4
Writer: Adam Beechen
Pencils: Eduardo Pansica, Inker: Eber Ferreira

I'm happy with my decision to drop this book, although this seemed to be an okay issue. For one thing, the regular artist was off this month! YAY! The art was so much better in this issue. More interesting, better facial expressions, more kinetic, just better. The characters are still awkward and poorly written, and I hate the connections to current DC continuity. Constantly name-checking things that are going on now, 2011, in DC books misses the entire point/opportunity of having a book set in the future. Did Not Purchase.

Fear Itself #1
Writer: Matt Fraction, Artist: Stuart Immonen

This is Marvel's big universe event for the year, I guess. This first issue seemed pretty good; it's all focused on Captain America and Thor villains, which makes sense to gently push the idea of the upcoming movies. I just don't connect to those characters enough to want to get into another event right now. If the issue had blown me away, maybe, but it didn't quite get there. Did Not Purchase.

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us
Tanya Lee Stone, 2010

I should mention something here at the top. I like Barbie dolls. I display the fancy Collector dolls on my shelves. I turn other Barbies into original characters, or pop culture characters, for display. However, I bought my first Barbie at age 23. My mother used to say that they promoted poor body image, and I accepted that... until I decided I wanted to make doll clothes, and started exploring them for myself. Now I think Barbies can be problematic, but they are too often used as a scapegoat. This is why occasionally you'll see me defending Barbies around the internet, and why I read this book.

Premise: The history and culture surrounding the most famous doll in the world.

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed in this book. I guess I was hoping for something more in depth.

As a coffee table book it's fine: the pictures are very nice, and it's a good overview of the subject. However, the sections about collecting basically only restated things I knew, and the sections about the origins of Mattel just made me frustrated that there wasn't more information.

The one big advantage that this book has is that the author includes many personal statements and opinions that she collected. These really show the range of strong emotions stirred by what seems like such a a simple thing.

As far as the controversies around Barbie, I didn't find the author's conclusions new, but she put them well, and I agree. In summary: Barbie isn't inherently the problem. Some girls and boys will probably take away a negative message from the doll, but plenty of girls will have a screwed up body image completely independently of whether or not they owned Barbies. Plenty of girls will grow up secure in themselves and their bodies, independently of whether or not they owned Barbies. The doll is one image among millions, and for every person who reports that Barbie dolls specifically made her feel bad, another reports finding empowerment in Barbie dolls, and/or more harm in comments from adults than from any inanimate thing.

I came away from this book with a strong desire to learn more about the amazing Ruth Handler, co-founder of Mattel and inventor of Barbie. There were a few interesting sounding books in the bibliography, so I guess I'm adding to my to-read list.

Overall, it's a good summary of the history of Barbie and the controversies surrounding her, but that's all it is: a summary.

2 Stars – An Okay Book 

Buy The Good, the Bad and the Barbie on Amazon
Buy Computer Engineer Barbie on Amazon!

Follow Friday/Book Blogger Hop Apr 1

Friday, April 1, 2011

This is Follow Friday, hosted by Parajunkee's View

Today's Question is:

What is the book that you really don't want to admit to loving?

Hmmm... I'm generally pretty open about the books I love, even the silly ones. I used to be embarrassed by still enjoying sword-and-sorcery novels like I read in high school, or what I affectionately call the vampire porn series, but now it seems silly not to just own my tastes.

Book Blogger HopThe Book Blogger Hop is hosted at

Today's Question is:

"Since today is April Fool's Day in the USA, what is the best prank you have ever played on someone OR that someone has played on you?"

I'm not much of a prankster myself; I'm a terrible liar and I don't like hiding things. I witnessed a great number of pranks, both funny and not, when I worked at one particular theater several years ago. I think my favorite one might be the following: 

At this theater there was a long straight hallway that connected the dressing rooms to the landing that led to backstage. One day the lead actor in the show has an idea, and he enlists the help of the assistant stage manager. It's about 15 min until the show starts, and all the actors are in costume getting ready. The lead and the ASM come to the landing by the stage, where I was hanging out with some other crew, and they ask us not to spoil the joke. The ASM gets on the intercom, and calls out "Mr. *Name of the Understudy*, please report to back stage right, Mr. *Name* to backstage right away." in this calm but tense voice. 

When the poor man came around the corner at the end of the hall, he saw all of us standing, looking concerned, around the lead, who was seated, with his foot up on another chair, holding his ankle, looking pained. The understudy went completely white. He walked up the hall, and started to speak, but the lead took pity on him, and got up. "Sorry, sorry, we're just messing with you!" The understudy reassured us that, should something actually happen to the lead, he would be able to go on, but he was very relieved he didn't have to do so that day.