Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Miscellaneous reviews 03

Dr. Slump volume 9 by Akira Toriyama:
Akira Toriyama’s first weekly manga series, Dr. Slump, is an excellent read. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Toriyama has a combination of intelligent, crass and simply stupid jokes. Each chapter is a barrage of various different types of jokes that incessantly pummel the reader. It all sound violent but trust me, it’s an excellent read. Arale is one of the cutest robots in the history of the medium.

I missed volume 9 when I was first buying the volume. I have most of the series and volume 9 was one of the two gaps I had in my collection. I was upset to have missed it because Dr. Senbei Norimaki and Ms. Midori Yamabuki get married. The weeding is followed by romping multi-part honeymoon. It was great to read about the wedding and honeymoon because I was wondering how the whole thing happened. Needless to say, Toriyama did not disappoint. I was a little weird to read one of the volumes at the half way mark because there was a surprising amount of differences from earlier stories. Someday I plan on writing a longer post about why this is one the most hilarious comics ever published. Each volume has special feature pages and this volume is no different. Half of the pages are slice of life type newspaper articles making fun of Toriyama. The rest are short, one page comics about the creation of some of the main characters. Dr. Slump is always an absolute joy to read I wouldn’t trust anybody who tells you they don’t enjoy it. They’re lying to you.

Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany:
I really enjoyed Babel-17. It’s the first novel by Samuel R. Delany that I’ve ever read. I’ve been interested in reading some of his books as he sounds like a tremendous influence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. There were several of his novels at a used book store near home so I decided to pick up a few. I wasn’t sure where to start so I picked the book with the cover I enjoyed the most. It was a quick read but one that provided me with a few hours of enjoyment while reading and several more afterword. There is a lot to think about long after you put down the book.

The book deals with linguistic relativity (also known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) or how language affects your understanding of the world. Some people believe that your ability to communicate something in directly linked to your understanding of it. Rydra Wong, a renowned poet, is asked to decode Babel-17, a code which is being used to orchestrate strategic military attacks. It turns out that Babel-17 is not a code but a highly advances language from the depth a space. As Rydra learns the language her perception and understanding of the world around her radically changes.

I read an interview in which Delany mentions how he discovered the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis a few years after writing Babel-17 which completely disproved the theory in his opinion. Delany thought of about linguistic relativity without being able to label it with specific words. I enjoyed Delany’s style. It was poetic and managed to starkly describe the world in which the characters exist while also portraying the beauty of things. There are also neat ideas about the future like the extensive use of “cosmetisurgery” that not only modify the appearance of individuals but can also give enhanced abilities. It’s also rather funny at times. I particularly enjoyed how one of the characters references James Bond as being a real person. I enjoyed Babel-17 and I understand why it’s regularly considered a classic science-fiction novel. I’ve not entirely made up my mind on Delany but I know for certain that I’ll be reading more of his books because I’ve rather enjoyed this one.

Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus volume 2:
Jack Kirby continues his opus in the second collection of all the Fourth World stories, Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen, Forever People, New Gods and Mister Miracle. I think it’s great that the titles are organized chronologically in theses collections. It’s not all great though because there is a downside. Walter Simonson mentions the incredible momentum that Kirby was building with four titles coming out on bi-monthly schedules. I don’t see it. I don’t feel it, either. Most of these title have a momentum building up within their own pages but skipping from one title to another nullifies that feeling of momentum and growth in the story. It’s as if the story is too big and it’s taking an unnecessarily long time to really get going. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the omnibus collection and therefore the entire Fourth World saga feels unfocussed and unnecessarily bloated.

Two volumes in and I find it very difficult to enjoy any of the Jimmy Olsen issues. Unless something happens in that title in later volumes, I think it could have been completely cut out from the Fourth World story. I wish I didn’t have to say that, but it’s true. But, for every issue of Jimmy Olsen I get one issue New Gods and another of Mister Miracle which are just superb. I absolutely adore both of those two titles. Kirby’s crazy ideas are at their finest in those two titles and his art is spectacular. Mister Miracle because much more interesting than it was in the first volume with the introduction of Big Barda, it’s hard to believe, I know, but she’s a great character. Forever People also continues to be good. It’s much better than Jimmy Olsen but there is something holding it back from being as good as New Gods or Mister Miracle. Either way, these are great comics from the 70s and I’ll definitively enjoy revisiting this once I’m done the series. I might end up skimming through the Jimmy Olsen issues though. Especially those Don Rickles co-star issues.

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