Saturday, 28 June 2014

Miscellaneous Reviews 08: Lucky Luke and Yoko Tsuno

Lucky Luke: Le fil qui chante (The Singing Wire):
I didn't appreciate it when I was young, a least not consciously, but Morris and Goscinny make Lucky Luke seem so effortless. The words and picture work so well together. They combine seamlessly into a fun yet informative narrative. It's professionals at work and it makes for a really fun read. The effortless storytelling translates to a breezy read. But Lucky Luke manages to have substance too so it doesn't feel like a throwaway comic.

James Gamble, an engineer, is given the task to bring the telegraph wire from Carson City to Salt Lake City and completing half of the First Transcontinental Telegraph. Lucky Luke, recently put out of a job with the Pony Express due to the telegraph, is hired to protect Gamble’s team and help out wherever he can. There is a second team whose job it is to install the singing wire from the east coast all the way to Salt Lake City where it will join up with the wire installed by Gamble’s team. Morris and Goscinny give the plot a bit of weight by having the team strike a bet: the team who makes it to Salt Lake City first will get $100,000. This obviously makes Luke’s job much more difficult since he’s now convinced that there is a spy within Gamble’s team and he’s right, of course.

The setup is done in just a handful of pages and the rest of the album focuses on the journey from Carson City to Salt Lake City. Gamble’s team encounter numerous challenges, some natural, some logistical and quite a few caused by the traitor. Many of the situations are humorous and the overall tone is light-hearted. Goscinny maintains some suspense with the mystery of who the traitor is and the reveal is pretty satisfying considering the length of the comic. The jokes are regularly predictable but I’m not sure if that’s because I read it numerous times before or if it’s truly obvious where the jokes are coming from. I don’t think it really matters because seing it happen on the page is still enjoyable, in great part due to Morris’s expressive cartooning. Le fil qui chante is good fun and it’s guaranteed to please and it’ll certainly make you smile. It’s a fine example of an all-ages bandes dessinées. 

My review is based on the French edition published by Dargaud in 1977.

Yoko Tsuno: Le Dragon de Hong Kong (The Dragon of Hong Kong):
There are three main types of Yoko Tsuno stories. The first kind involve her background as an electrical engineer to tell cutting edge (for their time of publication) science centric stories. Those stories often have science fiction elements but they’re grounded in the real world thanks to Roger Leloup’s crisp and detailed art. The second type of stories are pure science fiction often involving the Vineans, technologically advance blue skinned humanoids. The third type of stories are the time travel stories. After writing La Spirale du temps (The Time Spiral), Leloup revisited Monya and her time machine in several other time travel stories. It doesn’t sit perfection in either of the two types of stories because it has an important science fiction element to them but they’re also ground in reality (either the present or well researched representation of the past). As such, I consider those stories to be a separate type.

Le Dragon de Hong Kong, published in 1986, is one of the Type-1 stories. The story jumps right into the thick of it and by the second page Yoko is already acquainted with the dragon of the BD’s title. She is in China to visit her cousin and decides to make a trip to Hong Kong (alone, because her cousin doesn’t like the bit city). After a tooth is left behind in the junk’s wooden banister, Yoko takes it upon herself to uncover the mystery of the dragon’s origins.

Overall, the story is simple but what’s impressive here isn’t really the story itself (though there is nothing notably bad about it) but Leloup’s masterful skills as a storytelling. I was particularly impressive by the pacing of the comic. It’s plotted very well and the story moves very briskly while also maintaining a certain rhythm that allows for ease of reading and enough time for the reader to enjoy the artwork. There really isn’t a single wasted panel in the whole comic and it’s filled with detective-like investigating, human story elements (a bit of Yoko’s family history and the beginning of her own family), action both high-tech and low-tech and everything wraps up in a final page that is both heart-breaking and heart-warming.

As always, Leloup’s art is one a treat. One of the best things about Yoko Tsuno is Leloup’s attention to detail. It’s quite spectacular how he can convey so many realistic depictions of buildings, people, machines, and boats. Most of the art is done using a single-width ink line. Because the inking is so uniform everything is given a more equal importance on the page. Leloup still maintains focus on the characters and the action, but everything is drawn with equal attention to detail and it helps to immerse the reader into the real-life settings of the story. He changes his inking a bit for the dragons, likely in order to convey the scales more realistically. It also helps to make them stand out more from the rest of the art. He also used another technique to make the scenes with the dragons pop, that of using larger panels. Le Dragon de Hong Kong is entirely made up of pages that have three or four tiers. The four tier pages are used for the non-action scenes and they mostly serve to advance the plot or develop the characters. The three tier pages are used for the action. This allows for larger panels which is necessary to show off the Hollywood blockbuster-like action.

There is a noteworthy real-life parallel between Leloup’s live and that of his heroine, Yoko. This album is dedicated to Keum-Sook, Leloup’s adoptive daughter of Korean descent. Yoko adopts her own daughter in this story and Rosée du matin, the little girl in question, will become a staple character of the series from that point on. It’s actually quite nice to see Yoko evolve so gracefully into this new role but it’s not surprising given her easy relationship with other children previously in the series. Le Dragon de Hong Kong is a typical Yoko Tsuno story, which means face pacing, stellar art and an interesting lead character. It was good when I was a boy and it’s still very good now.

My review is based on the French edition published by Dupuis in 1986.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Truce at Bakura review

At the time of The Phantom Menace's release, many complained that the movie was no good because it used politic issues as a main plot point in what is obviously an action-oriented franchise. Some even went as far as to say that politics don’t have their place in Star Wars. Those fans are idiots for saying so but they’re not entirely wrong. They’re idiots because politics has been a part of Star Wars for several years before the release of the first movie in the prequel trilogy. Many of the novels and comics in the Expanded Universe integrate politics in some fashion. Indeed, the charm of the Expanded Universe is that the Star Wars galaxy is so large it can be the home to several different types of stories. One of my favourites is the unlikely genre mash-up that is Death Troopers. In short, there is something for everyone to enjoy in the Expanded Universe.

The fans where right in saying that the movie suffered because it used politics but that had as much to do as how the politics were used. Politics has been used effectively in all sorts of genre writing. An obvious example is the Star Trek franchise. A more current and obvious fantasy exampled would be George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and Game of Thrones the HBO show based on the series. You could easily add many different series and novels to the list but my point here is that politics in itself cannot be blamed for a bad movie or book because of its inclusion in said movie or book. Cue The Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers. 

The novel begins just minutes after Return of the Jedi. It’s a great little idea especially when a couple chapters later the plot has moved on to a diplomatic mission to a planet on the edge of the Outer Rim which is rife with troubles and under potential attack from xenophobic aliens looking to enslave the Galaxy. Bakura is a planet under the rule of an imperial Governor, Wilek Nereus. When they find out about the imminent Ssi-ruuk attack, they contact the Empire for assistance but the message is intercepted by the Rebel Alliance. Knowing that Emperor Palpatine has just been defeated and that the Empire is likely going to be in disarray for a while, Leia, Han and Luke decide to go to Bakura to defend the planet and hopefully have them sign up with the Alliance when they realize who came to their help when they needed it most. That’s the Rebels for ya, nothing but a bunch of opportunists!

The book has three main problems. The first is that the Ssi-ruuk are boring villains and boring aliens, there is very little about them that is interesting. The second is that the characterization of the main trio is really off and the nice bit about Leia isn’t enough to make up for the rest of the poor decisions. The third and final problem is that Tyers doesn’t seem to know what kind of story she wants to write and by throwing everything in together she only ends up writing what I would quality as an uneven and poorly plotted book.

The Ssi-ruuks which threaten Bakura are some of the more uninteresting aliens in the Expanded Universe I’ve had the displeasure of reading. They’re not just boring, they’re actively annoying. They’re essentially space raptors (which is a terrible idea) that speak in a combination of whistles and clicks. They scour the Outer Rim for human prisoners which they “entech”, transferring their life energy into battery cells. Those battery cells are then used to power droid starfighters. It’s pretty evil. They’re essentially soul traffickers and it’s a pretty despicable trade. I like the idea of entechment as a story element but it’s never explored. I want to know if the souls are like energy, once they’re expensed do you need to acquire more souls in order to power the droid? Or is it different, does one soul power one starfighter indefinitely? They’re good ideas but they’re not really used, it’s just a way to setup conflict on Bakura which provides the writer with an excuse to send the movie cast on an adventure. The reason the Ssi-Ruuk don’t work is that the main Ssi-Ruuk characters are poorly written. They talk in clichés and their motivations are equally uninspired.

As much as I like the idea that The Truce at Bakura begins mere minutes after the end of Return of the Jedi, it unfortunately serves to point out one of the book’s flaws which is the poor characterization of Han and the Skywalker twins. Han is as his most uninteresting in this book. He doesn’t really do anything of note. He flies around in the Millennium Falcon at the beginning and towards the end but aside from piloting his famous ship, he serves no real purpose to the story. When he’s not flying, he’s arguing with Leia. Han and Leia’s relationship progressed nicely in Return of the Jedi but here it’s regressing simply to provide the reader with forced and uninteresting bitch fits between our favourite Star Wars couple.

Thankfully the other half of the power couple gets some interesting moments. It’s nice to see her put her skills as a diplomatic to good use. In the movies we mostly see her as a rebel strategist and running around blasting Stormtroopers.  Unfortunately, Leia’s diplomatic skills appear to have been left unused for too long a time. She’s very rusty. I think that’s more representative of Tyers’ inability to write a convincingly accurate portrayal of Galactic politics or believable senators. Leia continues to be regarded as a very good diplomat in my mind even though I’ve never really seen her skills in action. The other interesting element of Leia is that she actually gets to deal with the news that Darth Vader is her father. It’s the best thing about this book. Tyers could easily have skipped over it and, honestly, I likely would not have noticed it. It’s extremely important to Leia’s character that she acknowledges this fact and learns to deal with it. While Luke has been obsessing with Vader and the power of the Force for three entire movies, Leia has simply despised the man for what he represented within the order of the Empire as well as for his cruelty and the evil deeds he’s done.

Luke’s portrayal is alright but like Han’s, he seems to have regressed as a character. Gone is the Jedi who is confident in his ability in the use of the Force. Every time he says or thinks something of which Yoda wouldn’t approve, Luke has an immature thought which amounts to “Whoops, Yoda would disapprove. I shouldn’t think that.” It’s unnecessary for the readers and it makes Luke think like a petulant child which is something he used to be but isn’t any longer. He’s also immature in his search for an apprentice. So much has happened to him in the time before and during Return of the Jedi you think he’d take a breather for a couple days. Besides, he has several other more important things keeping him busy on Bakura (the diplomatic mission, protecting the planet from the Ssi-Ruuk and a Jedi-hating love interest) he’s obsessing over finding force-sensitive individuals to train in the ways of the Force. Why doesn’t he focus on his own training for a bit while searching? Why doesn’t he make it his primary focus and leave the Alliance for a while? Luke, you’re too busy to obsess over everything. Just take it easy for a little while.

The best thing about the book is the setup. I really liked the book for the first few chapters. I really liked the idea that it begins directly after the credits of the last film in the trilogy. It's a logical extension of the story which began in the movies. After they defeated the head of the Empire the Rebel Alliance is now trying to establish its credibility as an alternative governing body. They do so by providing aid to a planet under imperial rule because of the Empire's current inability to offer aid to said planet. Unfortunately, once the setup is over the book starts to go downhill pretty fast. The novel lacks focus, it doesn’t have a main story is a problem and all the other, separate elements are tacked on to each other in the hopes of making something cohesive. Is The Truce of Bakura an action adventure story or is it political drama? Theoretically, it could be both but in this particular case there isn’t enough that connects both stories to make for a compelling novel. The focus shifts from one to the other without any reason rather than have both stories feed each other and grow. It makes for an uneven read and probably the most disappointing Star Wars novel I’ve read yet.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Vimanarama review

Grant Morrison and Philip Bond’s Vimanarama is a delightful little comic. It’s one of Morrison’s simpler comics and part of why I like it so much is because of its simplicity. It’s pop comic or the comic equibalent of a popcorn film. Note, that it’s not the comic equivalent of a blockbuster film, not at all. It’s light-hearted and charming and it’s also funnier than most comics written by Morrison. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and neither should you.

While the comic doesn’t take itself too seriously, the characters really do. Ali is a young Muslim man who is going through and existential crisis. His father has arranged for him to marry and he’s hours away from meeting his bride-to-be. He’s convinced that when he meets his future wife he will know if God loves him or not by how beautiful she is (or isn’t). He’s seriously worried that she’ll either be ugly, stupid or boring. As it happens, Sofia is very pretty and she’s far from boring. Nothing about Ali’s life is boring because the same day he met his fiancée is also the beginning of the end of the Earth when he inadvertently unleashed a great evil upon the world.

The best thing about this comic is the tone but it’s also the easiest thing to miss. A lot of it has to do with Philip Bond’s art. His stocky and cartoonish characters work really well with this story. It’s drastically different from his earlier collaboration with Morrison on Kill Your Boyfriend. Here his art style is more exaggerated or defined than it was with Kill Your Boyfriend and it really works. It actually works better with Vinamarama, partly due to the juxtaposition of the regular human characters and the godlike Ultrahadeen (religious superheroes) and the evil Atlanteans (Jack Kirby inspired villains). Actually, now that I think about it a lot of this comic works by presenting opposing elements and letting them play our organically.

I started to talk about the tone and that’s what makes this comic work for me. Bond’s art is walking on the edge of characterization and Morrison’s dialogue is much sillier here than it usually is in his comics. Really though, it’s two comics professionals not taking it took seriously but still managing to produce a very interesting and very entertaining story. I should say four professionals as colourist Brian Miller and letterer Todd Klein help to round out what is essentially a superstar cast of creators. They’re goofing around a bit but they’re doing it like pros, nothing is unpolished, and the result is a micro version of what you would normally find inside a comic written by Morrison.

I’m pretty sure the whole thing is meant to be over the top for humorous effect. When talking to journalists about the sinkhole in his store, the Ali’s father mentions that the underground mine (that’s what he thinks it is at the time) was a threat to him and his family. He almost lost his scholar son (Omar) who only survived because of his brother (Ali). Really though, he’s exaggerating for the press. Omar is disciplined and obedient but he’s far from being a scholar. Likewise, Ali likes to doodle and he doesn’t appear to have gainful employment. Being described as an artist isn’t accurate at all. It doesn’t sound funny when I explain it but trust me, in the hands of pros like Morrison and Bond, it works rather well. Really though, it’s the compound effect of these little gags being thrown around the page in the midst of godlike alien apocalypse and meet-cute love story. The first issue actually opens with a double splash page taken right out of a Bollywood film because this is the kind of story it is. Imran, Ali’s nephew, couldn’t even crawl yesterday but today he’s walking around getting into all sorts of trouble.

All the humour is just one part of the comic. The second part is the budding romance between husband and wife to be, Sofia and Ali. Their story feels so real and even though it’s told in three single issues, the whole thing feels rather well paced and believable. There is a third part to the comic and that’s the superheroics, a love child of Jack Kirby and Eastern philosophies and religions.

Vimanarama is a micro Morrison story. A lot of his popular themes are present here such as love, metaphysics, superheroes, Eastern cultures but, most important of all, is the theme of human transcendence and the power to save ourselves. Sofia doesn’t fall in love for Ali because he’s cute or charming (mostly because he’s not really charming at all, he’s a bit depressing really) but because he has “sad eyes”. The other reason she falls in love with his is that while his family is busy bickering and complaining about the destruction of their corner store, Ali is always running around trying to save everyone. He’s the family hero and nobody recognizes it but Sofia.

Ali’s decision to achieve transcendence through death in order to save the world was a plan doomed to fail but his heroic action (as much as you can call suicide heroic) helps to defeat the Atlanteans. Though Ali doesn’t succeed on his own, it’s his heroic spirit that helps Ben Rama realize the potential that modern man has to succeed. Prior to Ali’s gesture he was caught up in his own bravado and partially defeated by the decay of the great civilization of Earths he’s familiar with (civilization from 6,000 years ago). This is a deceptive comic. My earlier descrition of pop comic isn’t accurate. That’s what it is on the surface but readers who take their time and choose to savour Vimanarama will be reading a completely different comic than those who are simply reading these issues in an effort to catch up with their reading pile.

Vimanarama is an inspired combination of cosmic superheroics like Jack Kirby’s Fourth World or The Eternals mixed with a family centric dramady and the result is a comic filled with contrasting ideals that’s s pleasure to read.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Jugger by Richard Stark review

When I sat down and got comfy before starting to read The Jugger, the sixth novel is Richard Stark’s Parker series, I remembered something I read at The Violent World of Parker. Stark, or if you prefer Donald Westlake, has publically mentioned the error he’s made in writing this book. He went so far as to say that The Jugger is the worst book he’s ever written. I couldn’t get this idea in my head while reading. Stark explained it as follows:
“I spoiled a book by having him do something he wouldn’t do. The sixth book in the series is called The Jugger, and that book is one of the worst failures I’ve ever had. The problem with it is, in the beginning of the book this guy calls him and says “I’m in trouble out here and these guys are leaning on me and I need help,” and Parker goes to help him. I mean, he wouldn’t do that, and in fact, the guy wouldn’t even think to call him! (laughs)”
Aside from the fact that he gets some of the specifics wrong (many authors don’t reread their previous work), he gets the plot point wrong. He doesn’t correctly remember the novel. Yes, Joe Sheer (the titular jugger, a professional safecracker) contacts Parker and asks for help but Parker travels to Sagamore, Nebraska to protect his own interests. Joe contacted Parker on two occasions. Once, to let him know he’s in trouble and that he’ll take care of it and a second time to let Parker know that he can’t deal with the trouble and he need’s Parker’s help. Parker’s used Joe as a middle man for people who needed to contact Parker. They would go through Joe and Joe would then go to Parker to relay the message. The trouble is that Joe knows of Parker’s cover up name and the life he fabricated for that name. The mixed message of Joe’s letters indicates to Parker that the man is too old and he’s starting to lose his professional edge. He visits Sagamore with the intent to keep his identity a secret and to kills Joe if he had to. The last thing Parker needs is to have someone running around babbling about Charles Willis, Parker’s cover identity.

The book has other weaknesses. Captain Younger, chief of police in Sagamore, is a very annoying character. He’s moronic in every possible way but he’s still intelligent enough to successfully intimidate a seasoned professional like Joe Sheer. Parker also does more than a couple silly things in the novel and he doesn’t tie up his loose ends as effectively and cleanly as he normally does. The plotting is also weird. Like many Parker novels, the action starts in media res but thinks are actually a bit confusing for a few chapters, as if the book started with chapter 2. All the details are there if you pay attention but I admit I had to go back a couple of pages to figure out who and where Captain Younger first appeared in the book. Everything made sense in the third part of the book when the story shifted to Younger’s perspective but for half the novel, you’re just going along trying to put the pieces together, just like Parker.

The book is the weakest Parker novel so far but the problems are all in the plotting. Besides the minor complaint I have with the beginning of the novel being confusing (it’s a minor complaint because everything works out in the end), The Jugger is still much better and more interesting to read than many other novels out there.  For starters, Stark’s prose is a gripping as ever. Though the plotting is messed up, the pacing isn’t. Everything flows with such a fascinating cadence that you just can’t leave the book down. It’s a bad book written by a great writer. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a novel whose protagonist so closely resembles the style of prose used for the novel in which the character appears. It’s calculating but effective. Like Parker, Stark only does what needs to be done. His prose is economical without being lacking.

The fact that The Jugger isn’t well plotted allowed me to regain focus on the rest of what makes the Parker series so good. Namely, the characters and how effortlessly Stark can write them. The third section of the novel, the section in which the perspective usually shifts, Stark builds the character of Captain Younger. It’s stunning how such a throwaway character can be given such depth. In just a few chapters, Stark turned Younger into one of the more complex (albeit annoying) characters in a novel of complex characters. It shouldn’t be possible that such a simple style can create characters with such depth but being a master of the genre, and really just a strong writer, Stark makes it all look easy while also making it captivating.

The book ends with an additional switch in perspective and it leaves some of what Parker fixed during The Jugger unravelling. It’s nice to be reminded that Parker is no infallible. He’s failed before but the reminder is appreciated. It’s frustrating that he has another problem to fix but it’s a problem he’s handled before and he knows how to get out of it. In a way, I’m glad the book isn’t as awful as Stark remembers but at the same time, I’m glad that he remembers it that way. It’s likely had an impact on him and he thought about other Parker books and it’s likely improved them. This is just speculation though. It’s important to remember that I’ve only read one Parker novel published after The Jugger, and its several more books down the line. Still, it was interesting to see that despite its flaws The Jugger proves that you can’t go wrong reading the Parker series by Stark.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

In Praise of the Old and the Forgotten: Why Old Books are Better

We are a society of consumers. Every day we are bombarded by targeted advertisements designed to keep us in a perpetual cycle of purchasing, using and discarding goods. When I look at an online bookstore, I can expect to see the books I just looked at advertised on the social media platforms I use. It’ll happen in a matter of minutes. Corporations want me to buy that book I was perusing just a moment ago. They want me to buy it now. Every day it’s getting easier and easier to purchase new merchandise with minimum effort. I find this worrisome because the less thought and effort we put into deciding what to buy and what to experience takes away from that very experience.

There is a strong message from advertisers that things that are new are good or better than things that are old. New isn’t indicative of quality, not in the least. In reaction to targeted marketing and the Cult of New, I’ve written an article to demonstrate why I think older things, particularly old books, are often better than new ones. It’s also a rallying cry for people who like to make decisions for themselves and for people who enjoy the act of discovery! There are many reasons why older books are better than newer books. Read on to find out why.

Old books: Coming to a Future Near You:

Since I started by complaining about how today’s technology can be used to influence us in our buying habits, thus affecting our entertainment choices and our growth as readers, I’d like to point out that old books are readily available to modern readers. When I received my now-discontinued Kobo Wi-Fi (don’t worry, I won’t be writing an article in praise of old eReaders anytime soon) for Christmas many years ago, it came with 100 classic novels already on it at no extra cost. That’s incredible! More incredible is that there are a lot of classic, well-known and often read and analyzed books amongst those 100 novels. Philosophy by Friedrich Nietzsche, politic thought by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, several classic fiction titles by Charles Dickens, Jules Vernes, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie and so many more. For free!

For people who are and will forever be caught in the hypnotic appeal of something shiny and new, you can also revisit old works by popular, or critically lauded authors, with new editions of old works. Many famous or influential series are republished on a regular basis. Some authors have their entire published works published under various different formats; some of them can be quite affordable. I myself own a copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare which I purchased for $12.99. The large softcover volume doesn’t only include all of his plays but also all of his poems. It’s hard to say no to that because it’s such a good bargain. Of course, buying books in this format can be a little difficult to read and travel around with, but if you have a favourite play or two or six, buy those individual volumes as they’ll readily be available either new or second hand. Why you ask? Because Shakespeare!

Your Wallet Will Thank You:

Unlike new books, old books are often available at an affordable price. I’m talking specifically about used books. They’re far less expensive and the product you’re buying is often the same. You do not have to exchange quality for price. The physical objects themselves can vary in quality just like the story within can vary in quality. In addition to a lower sales price, shopping for used books can be very exciting. It’s a good way to expand your horizons and make interesting discoveries. It’s also easier to give an author you’ve never read before a try when the cover price is under five dollars or less.

It’s also important to point out that when you choose to shop at a used bookstore, you’re also choosing to buy into a very different shopping experience than if you went to a corporately owned national bookseller. For starters, many used bookstores operate on a buy, sell and trade business model. If you tried a book and didn’t like it you can bring it back to the same store for a trade or a store credit. Even when you’re trying something completely unknown or something new to you, you can always bring it back and try something else. There is a certain sense of freedom to shopping at that kind of store. It’s also important to point out that when you’re shopping at a used bookstore you’re supporting a local business. In turn, you’re also supporting your community. Used bookstores often contribute to local charities, community events or literacy programs. The cashier might not ask you to donate $1 on your purchase to contribute to reading programs in schools. Nope, they’ll just go ahead and do it because they’re a responsible local business.

Practically new, 1/3 of the price.
You easily spend a long time in a bookstore but you can spend even more time (hours, easily) in a used bookstore. The difference is that you’ll likely leave the bookstore when you blow your budget out of the water or when you get a message on the debit machine telling you your account has insufficient funds. At the used bookstore, you’ll leave with an armful of books for the same price you would pay for a recently released hardcover novel. Most of the books at the store I go to sell for 2 to 5 dollars a book for mass market paperbacks. The price is mostly based on the size and quality of the book. Hardcovers, of course, are more expensive but you can still find some good deals. I purchased a hardcover copy of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson for $9.95. The original retail price is $35.95! The only discernable damage was on the dust jacket. Otherwise, the book was in great condition and it was a very good read.

Not Just a Way to Past the Time:

Shopping and reading aren’t just a way for you to past the time. It’s also not a bingo card of bestsellers of [insert year]. Shopping and reading used books really helps you focus on the fact that it can be a hobby. Reading can actually be something you enjoy again! By getting out of the rat race of bestsellers and new releases or using idiotic lists with titles like “The 14 Books About Music You Should Read in 2013”, as a reference point for finding what to read next. You can, and should, take action. You can easily go and search for books you’d like to read. Make your own list! I find that my reading experience has been more meaningful and enjoyable since I’ve decided to read what I want to read and not what publishers, marketers and book sellers want me to read (well, buy really, I doubt they care if you even read or enjoyed the damn things). It’s a decision I’ve made long ago, while I was a teen, but it’s something I’ve pushed to a whole new level since I’ve started to regularly visit used bookstores.

It’s not just reading that becomes more enjoyable. It can be much more fun to shop at a used bookstore than it is to go to a larger chain store. I know that I’ve got a list of books I specifically want to look for the next time I go book shopping. Well, it’s more of a hunt really. I’m looking for something specific and I intend to find it amongst the overcrowded shelves and stacks of books. Finding a book you’ve been searching for is a nice feeling. It’s an ever better feeling when moments later you find the same book in better condition for the same price! Fuck yeeeeessssssss! Let’s just hope it’s good, right? Books can also have more value when you’ve had to work for them. You might find the book you’re looking for but it could be in poor condition. It happens. Often times it’s a book that hasn’t had many publications and it’s likely out of print. Sure, you could go online and look for a used copy that way but when you factor in the cost of shipping, it might not be worth it. So you do what I do. You buy it, bring it home and you fix it up. My fiancée’s seen me glue and tape together quite a few books since I’ve discovered the wonder that is a used bookstore. 

This is a somewhat accurate example of what shopping at a used bookstore can be.
I love what they've done with the place.

Being the Most Popular Book in School Doesn’t Mean Anything:

There is nothing to gain by trying to read as many new books as you possibly can. Nothing at all. I think it actually lessens the impact of what you’re reading because it’s just one more book amongst a pile of them. I’ve heard of people who only read books on Best of the Year lists or on the Bestsellers wall at bookstores. This makes me incredibly sad because those are popular books, not necessarily good ones. Sure, some of them will be good but they’ll be as good as that movie you saw with your girlfriend last week. You know what I’m talking about, the movie with the generic plot, decent acting, the see-it-from-a-mile-away ending and the title you can’t remember? Hey, I’ll admit it, there is a time and a place for those kinds of book (and movies), but I try to limit it to one or two a year, tops. Life is too short to read books that are just “decent”.

Many people have a tendency to read what’s popular, as opposed to seeking out great books. I’ve learned long ago that I like to stick to things I have a feeling I’ll like, but once I’m done reading everything by that author, it’s time to spread my wings and try something new. The goal isn’t just to try new things (though that’s not a bad goal at all) but to discover that next favourite author. I’m not saying I won’t get excited for new books. That’s not true at all. I’ll get really excited for books by authors who I enjoy and admire, but I won’t be excited for the new book by Dan Brown because one Dan Brown book was plenty for my lifetime (for the curious, it was Deception Point pre his ultra-fame a few years later). Few things upset me more than recommendations that aren’t more thought out than “Read this book. It just came out!” So what?

Why it’s Good for You to Read Old Books:

I’ve been circling around the issue since the very first paragraph, but I’m going to say it now: old books are often better for you than new books. There are plenty of different reasons for this, but one of them is that books, like everything else, are a product of their time and reading and old book can help you better understand the context in which it was written. The opposite is also true, better understanding the historical context in which a work was written can help you better understand the book. Another reason for reading old books is that time is a good critic. Old books that are still mentioned today are likely remembered for good reasons. Admittedly, the book itself might be challenging and unappealing for certain reasons (they don’t all age well) but changes are it’ll be worth your time. We can learn more from old books than we can from new book.

The biggest reason for reading old books is that it will broaden your horizon. Choosing to read old books is choosing to immediately increase the variety of books you read. Do you like science fiction? Well if you’ve only read science fiction that has been released in the last ten years you’ve barely read any sci-fi at all. Books of today in any genre are different than they were in that same genre ten years ago. The same can be said for those books from twenty, thirty, fifty or more years ago. Most writers who have been active for more than a couple decades have evolved as writers. Variety is important because it’ll help you grow and develop as a reader and that will only mean that you can better identify and appreciate great books.

I forgot to mention that a lot of old books, or reprints of old books, have awesome covers.
They're not all winners but they're far more interesting than the "designed" covers of today.
Also, The Emperor's Soul is a new book. It came out in 2013 but I was able to find a copy at
half the original cover price (which is a whopping $14.95 - sticker shock!).

I often consider older books a palette cleanser to new books and vice versa. They’re different. So very, very different. Reading a fantasy novel form the sixties is different than reading the latest novel by Brandon Sanderson. I find it actually helps me appreciate both works more than I would have if I read exclusively fantasy novels from the sixties or recently published fantasy novels. Since the differences in old and new novels can be more easily recognized when you read them one after the other, it can be easier for you to identify why they’re different and why they’re both good. In the case where one of the books is bad or both are bad, it helps you figure out why. Understanding what you like and why is a big deal. Reading a variety of books, even if you stay within a specific genre, will help you discover what kind of reader you are.

You’ll discover things about yourself because you’ll be challenging yourself. Your tastes will change based on what you’ve read and on what you’ve experienced. Reality is subjective and how an individual reacts to a book might change over time.  It’s only when you start reading older works that you realize just how similar everything published today is. That’s not to say nothing published today is good, absolutely not. There are some great writers at work in this day and age, but by reading old books and new books you can better appreciate older and newer books. Variety is kept in check by a balanced reading list.

How to find old books that are good?

This is used bookstore gold. If you leave
with a book that has a cover like this,
you just won used book shopping.
Amazing. Click to Enlarge, it's worth it.
I like to think that good writers are influential writers. They’re not just people who have entertained with their writing, they’ve also inspired and influences others in their own creative endeavours. There is usually something more meaningful in the works of people who have inspired others. Well over a decade ago, I discovered the works of Neil Gaiman, and once I was done reading his stuff I didn’t know where else to go. So I read the works of some of the people who have influenced him such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolfe and Samuel R. Delany. I also read a lot of Alan Moore and one of his influences is Michael Moorcock. Incidentally, Moorcock has also influenced Gaiman. Two of my favourite writers share an influence? I knew I had to check out Moorcock. It’s kind of hard to believe that two very different writers such as Gaiman and Moore could share an influence, but after reading Moorcock, I get it. Who else could Moorcock have influenced? I’d likely enjoy their work too and if not, at least I tried something new. For people who might not be familiar with Science Fiction and Fantasy writers, Moorcock has essentially influenced everyone who’s written in the field from the 70s onwards. He’s that important in the field and because of it, my reading list is essentially infinite now.  

Following your influences is probably the best to find books you’re likely to enjoy. Do you like the works of J. K. Rowling, particularly her fantasy work like Harry Potter? J. K. Rowling has publically stated that one of her favourite fantasy books is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. After a quick search on the homepage of my public library, I found four copies of the audiobook (in two different editions) and one physical copy of the book. Better yet, if I do an author search for Elizabeth Goudge, I’ve found that there are other books by her also available at the library. There might not be 24 hour shipping available but I can go to the library in person and pick it up immediately. You won’t be stuck on the waiting list for this book. The book might be old, but it continues to be easily accessible to me and if J. K. Rowling likes it, I might too.

Sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves that we live in a digital word. I say this because we often have a limited focus on the types of websites and online vendors we visit on a regular basis. You can just as easily access your public library or used bookstore online. My local store, Bay Used Books, has staff recommendations; customer surveys, a photo gallery (the store has been in business for a long time) and you can even request a book! I myself called in, asking if they had books by Brandon Sanderson and that’s how I ended up with Warbreaker. The staff also happens to be kind and helpful, and I’m certain the atmosphere of where they work contributes to that friendliness. If you’ve ever visited a corporately owned bookstore and a used bookstore, you’ll know what I mean.

Old Books Will Help with your OCD:

If you’re like me, you worry about the condition of your books. You spend a lot of money to acquire them and you’re careful not to bend the pages, crease the cover or break the spine. If you’re exactly like me, you’ve lent out books that have come back to you with a broken spine, creased cover and bent pages. That’s a fucking bummer. There goes $10+taxes! Sometimes it’s nice not to have to worry about the condition of a book. I can gladly lend out a used book to a friend. Hey, you can read it in the tub or by the pool! It’s cool, I only spent $3 on it! It’s also nice for when I’m reading it. Sometimes things get damaged on my way to and from work or in my suitcase when I travel. My beat up old copy of The Tombs of Atuan doesn’t mind.

It’s a strange feeling but it’s nice to know you won't feel AS awful for bending the spine of a used book. You likely bought it that way. Or losing the dust jacket, or staining it with your morning coffee. Weathered books are great for beach reading, subway reading, bungee jump reading and all sorts of other high-intensity situations that you wouldn't dare subject a new, pristine book to (I’m starting to make reading sound like an extreme sport).

There are a few other perks of shopping for and buying new books. You’re more likely to give away a used book because you paid so much less for it. Sharing something that feels important to you is the best kind of sharing there is. I’ve bought a friend a couple used (and out of print) Star Trek books for Christmas one year. The only Christmas gifts I buy regularly are gifts for my family but if something is inexpensive and you know it’ll please, it’s easy to buy a friend an old book. Some people like how books smell. Well, I think new books all smell the same but an old bookstore is a treasure trove of different book smells. Thousands of books, none of which have been stored the same. The combination of humidity level, light exposure and age can lead to some interesting results. While I generally read my books and not sniff them, I think it’s important to mention because the smell can round out the reading experience for some people by making it comfortable, familiar and relaxing.

Some of the arguments I’ve mentioned also apply to other forms of entertainment, such as television, movies, videos games, music, etc. Public libraries often have music and film collections available and you can find used music or movie stores without much effort. Often times you’ll even be able to trade your unwanted DVDs, CDs and records at these stores, effectively discovering something new (well, old) all the while uncluttering your home (kind of). In a world where there are no longer any undiscovered lands to be found, I find solace in the fact that there are more things to rediscover than there are new discoveries to be made. I like to think of myself as a modern day explorer, spending my time amongst stacks of books digging up strange and wondrous lost worlds from yesteryear. It’s also pretty cheap to do and well worth the effort. Who knows, you might just learn something.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Wonder Woman: Guts (volume 2) review

Seeing the reaction to Wonder Woman has been nearly as entertaining as reading the comic itself. It appears to be a very divisive title; readers either love it or hate it. It makes sense when you consider what the creative team is doing. In essence, they’re rewriting the character’s past and her entire mythos along with it. I don’t think the problem is that he’s re-writing the character. It can be very interesting when a character is rewritten but of course, it can also end in a poor storytelling resulting in a comic that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Thankfully, this series is well worth the paper, and even a little more but Wonder Woman has its faults. The biggest flaw of this comic is its depiction of Wonder Woman.

I’m unsatisfied with this version of Wonder Woman because she’s basically just muscle. She’s showed as a very skilled fighter in many issues but other than that, her character is a little hollow. It might be surprising to make such a comment about a character who’s been around since 1941, but how much of the old Wonder Woman has stayed the same? Azzarello is really changing some fundamental elements of who she is as character. For all intents and purposes, unless I’ve seen it in the pages of the New 52 series, any previous characterization of Wonder Woman do not apply to this particular take on the character. Most of what we’ve seen so far is her being manipulated by her “new” family and kicking some ass.

For the first 12 issues, Wonder Woman is reactionary. Worse, she’s characterized as someone who thinks with her fists, not with her head. Diana (Wonder Woman’s name) is constantly learning about secrets that have been hidden from her for her entire life. She’s being led around blindly by her god siblings and some of them are even using her as a means to an end in their own affairs. She appears to be making decisions on her own, but really she’s out of her depths and that’s why she’s unable to successfully protect Zola. Her talent is that she’s physically strong and good at combat. Some of her siblings share her impressive physical strength (such as Apollo and Artemis) but they all have a more cunning mind than her and they use it to her advantage.

It can be frustrating to read these issues because it’s very difficult to believe that her heritage has been kept a secret for so many years. It’s also surprising that Diana is routinely caught off guard by elements of Greek mythology. Even if she wasn’t aware of her status as a bastard child of Zeus, the Amazons of Themyscira were pretty well steeped in that same mythology.  If she knew anything about the gods of Olympus, she would have acted more defensively around them. She should know that she should be mistrusting of her new family because all they do is bicker and fight amongst each other. You would think that she would expect Hades to bargain unfairly and double cross her. But really, how can she? Wonder Woman is just Amazonian muscle, right? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it’s the dumbing-down of the character that has long-time fans of Wonder Woman annoyed with the New 52 series.

The hook for me is the extended cast. What are their motivations? How will the story play out and ultimately, who will get what they want and who will have to pay the price for it? After 12 issues there are patterns developing and I’m starting to question why people trust who they trust. A lot of the gods so far have made remarks implying that Hermes frequently tells lies. As a messenger, he doesn’t appear to be very good at relaying messages correctly – or at least without omissions or modifications. This inability to tell the truth, and the comments made about it, don’t appear to register with Wonder Woman. Once again, Diana is blind to something, something even I’ve been able to puzzle together: don’t trust Hermes. Really though, the important thing is that even if Hermes doesn’t do anything to confirm the mistrust his family has in him, I haven’t been trusting him blindly. My guards are up and that’s a sign of good storytelling. The creators have me engaged and interested in what’s going on in the pages of Wonder Woman. The comic isn’t perfect, it has its share of faults, but it has my attention and that’s something few comics in DC’s New 52 can boast.

Another reason the comic has my attention is the crisp art of Cliff Chiang. I previously mentioned that I like his designs for the gods and his redesign of Wonder Woman’s costume is pretty great. It’s familiar yet fresh but most importantly of all, it looks good. What really works for me though is the colouring by Matthew Wilson. It adds a lot to the consistent look of the art, even on the issues where Tony Akins takes over the pencilling duties. It’s also interesting to see how he uses a palette of colours that really pop on the page. It’s almost a throwback to the comics of decades ago where bright colours where the norm. Wilson regularly incorporates more traditionally feminine colours, such as purples and pinks, into the palette of specific scenes. The purples, especially, work really well. It suits a title in which the main character is a woman but Wilson isn’t overbearing with it. His choices of colours work well with the different scenes and he’s rather good at capturing the mood and the tone in the artwork by Chiang and Akins. The colours manage to be bright without sacrificing the more serious tones necessary for some scenes. I don’t recall noticing his work on another series but I’ll be looking out for him name from now on because I’m rather impressed with his work on Wonder Woman.

The end of the second volume of Wonder Woman feels like the end of the first chapter of the book. There is a sense that a certain culmination point has been reached and the last page teases the reader by showing us a bit of what’s to come. Wonder Woman’s creative team is building towards something and though it feels like that certain something is still several issues away (perhaps even the series climax), the ride so far has been very enjoyable if a little bumpy at times. It’s not just Wilson’s colouring that has my attention, but also everything else about this comic. After an entire year’s worth of issues, it remains one of the New 52’s more interesting and engaging series. 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Wonder Woman: Blood (volume 1) review

It’s been interesting to reflect on how my comic book reading habits have changed since I stopped collection comics in single issue format. There’s certainly some good along with the bad but mostly, I think it’s been a positive change. Some of the bad includes how I fell out of tune with recent comics. I’m not longer following the ups and downs of comic publishing on a monthly, or even weekly, basis. On the other hand, one of the positives has been that I spend less time chasing after and reading new comics and I’m able to focus more on acquiring and reading good (or at least interesting) comics, whether they’re new or old. For some readers this might sound a little silly. Why couldn’t I do both? Well when you consider that I’m an adult working in the modern world and I have responsibility and interests outside of comics, keeping up with monthly titles and having the opportunity to discover older and worthwhile works is a difficult thing for a person to do. The key thing to keep in mind though is that comics is but one of my interests. You just have to look at the archives of Shared Universe Reviews to see that I like reading novels, too and even though I don’t write a lot about movies, I really enjoy watching them.  

Before I quite the world of monthly comics, there were a few titles that I really enjoyed but I had to drop them when I changed my reading habits. I say “I had to” because cutting myself loose was a decision I made at the same time I moved to a different city. There were some series that I was leaving behind knowing I would return to them someday, mostly because I enjoyed them so much. Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, and Tony Akins (SPELLING FOR ALL) is one of the series. I’m now trade waiting for this series and now that the third trade paperback volume has been released, I thought it’d be a good time to revisit the series.

In the very first issue, heck the first few pages, this latest Wonder Woman reboot marks itself as a different take on the character. Characters from Greek mythology have long been a part of Wonder Woman’s stories but here they take on a new look and feel. Even Diana’s portrayal is influenced by how Azzarello integrates the Greek gods into the story. He pushes that angle of the story much farther than any incarnation of the character I’ve read before. It immediately makes this comic worth checking out, not necessarily because it’s different but because the differences that Azzarello weaves into Wonder Woman make it an intriguing story.

Overall, these first six issues are about family and an individual’s identity within that particular social construct. It’s made more complex (or complicated, take your pick) by the fact that most of these characters are gods or demi-gods. The comic begins shortly after a young woman, Zola, has slept with Zeus. She is attacked by a couple of centaurs and after being rescued by Wonder Woman and Hermes, she finds out that she’s pregnant. The centaurs that attacked her where sent by Hera, Zeus’s wife and queen of Olympus. Angered by her husband’s latest infidelity she’s determined to put an end to the pregnancy before the child is ever born, even if it means killing Zola. Wonder Woman is determined to protect the child and in doing so she gets pulled into the family drama of the gods, learning disturbing secrets along the way. Meanwhile, Zeus has disappeared. His unexplained absence has put in motion some familial politics and some of his children vie for the throne of their father.

One of the interesting things about this latest Wonder Woman series is how it compares to previous versions of the character. It’s very interesting but also very different from the Wonder Woman comics I’ve read before. Azzarello is taking advantage of the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe to create a story that is unencumbered by continuity and previous incarnations of the character. I agree with his decision to do so, especially because it’s a choice that seems encouraged by DC’s line wide relaunch. I’m also the kind of fan that doesn’t get too upset when continuity changes take place. Superhero comics books are part of a shared universe and even if creators and editors worked together to maintain consistency throughout years of publishing, it would be impossible to do for a character as old as Wonder Woman in a shared universe as old and as complicated as DC Universe pre (and even post) New 52. Even in the relaunched series, of which several are coming up on their third year anniversaries, there have been some pretty serious inconsistencies between series that use the same characters. Wonder Woman is one of those characters, where how she’s portrayed in her solo title doesn’t match up with her appearance in other books, like say Justice League. Even with the books where continuity seems to matter it’s a mess so why not choose to ignore it for the most part and focus on telling an interesting story? I say kudos to the creators of the New 54 Wonder Woman for making a smart storytelling decision.

Really the best thing about this book for me is how Azzarello embraces the aspects of Wonder Woman’s previous mythology and its reliance on Greek myths. Instead of having Greek mythology as part of Wonder Woman’s mythology, he makes her a part of theirs. It’s a nice perspective and it’ll likely provide a lot of potential for future stories. For now the fun is limited to meeting members of the pantheon, such as Hermes, Apollo, Poseidon, Hera, Hades and a few others. I also appreciate this kind of approach because it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to shoehorn the Greek gods into a comic book story, instead he’s allowing this far older and in my (and I would imagine most everybody’s) opinion, better mythology, to raise Wonder Woman’s story to a new level. It’s also surprising just how familiar yet mysterious the gods can be in these first few issues. Chiang has done some really interesting characters designs and obviously some are better than others. My favourite is probably Hermes but I did get a kick out of seeing Ares being based on Azzarello himself. I enjoyed this issues a bit more the second time around but the constant, and often not all that clever, wordplay is tedious. I think it bothers because most of it is part of the characters dialogue and it sounds really awful. Thankfully the sub-par dialogue doesn’t take too much away from the rest of the comic. Without any doubt, Wonder Woman was, and is, one of my favourite titles from the New 52.  

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Star Wars Omnibus: The Complete Saga, part 2 review

Last week I started my review of Star Wars Omnibus: The Complete Saga published by Dark Horse comics. It includes the comic book adaptation of the first six Star Wars movies. The first part of the review focused on Episodes IV, V and VI. All three adaptations were originally published in single issue format by Marvel Comics a few decades ago. The actual stories included in this collection were reissues by Dark Horse to coincide with the release of the Star Wars: Special Edition DVDs. The second part of review will focus on the adaptations to the prequel trilogy.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Script: Henry Gilroy
Pencils: Rodolfo Damaggio
Inks: Al Williamson
Colours: Dave Nestelle
Colour Separation: Harold MacKinnon
Lettering: Steve Dutro

It’s been interesting to read the adaptations, mostly to experience how certain scenes from the movie are better suited to being adapted to comic form. Many scenes in The Phantom Menace are made up of people talking. As such, it’s rather simple to do a talking head comic. It’s a slower read than you would thing but there is a lot of dialogue in the movie and most of it is present in the comic. In comparison, most of the action sequences are cut short considerably. The pod racing scene takes place in just a handful of pages. Specifically, the entire race only takes up five pages! It’s not just the race though; all the action scenes are cut down to allow for all of the dialogue heavy scenes. It makes sense why the creative team decided to do so. Action takes more space to reproduce in comics than it would in a movie and while you could have rewritten all of the diplomatic and senatorial debates, it would have made for a less faithful adaptation and it’s a lot of work for little pay off. Yes, you’d then have more room for the action scenes but you wouldn’t be able to convey the same sense of spectacle and speed as the movie could. As such, the lightsaber duels, the battle on the plains of Naboo, the pod racing and the starfighter battle above Naboo all flounder and aren’t particularly interesting to read.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the things I don’t like about the movie I also don’t like in the comic. Things like how the Gungans, particularly Jar-Jar Binks who has more “panel time” than any of the other Gungans, are super annoying. In the films you hear how they talk like idiots even if you’re not paying attention to them but it’s an entirely different thing to see their dialogue written out and then reading it. It magnifies the stupidity of their speech tenfold.

Shut up and listen to Yoda ya little brat!

The art is serviceable. It does what it’s supposed to do but the characters all look stiff, possibly because the artist is using the film as photo reference. The actors rarely look like themselves but that’s fine. As much as I like the thought of reading a comic starring Liam Neeson, there is no real need to have the characters look exactly like the actors who portrayed them in the film. What’s more troublesome is that most of the male characters look alike and many characters have a piggish nose. It’s kind of distracting to see similar facial characteristics on so many characters. Still, Damaggio gets the job done and I can’t really fault him for that. It’s just disappointing that Artoo and some of the starships are better drawn than most of the human characters.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Script: Henry Gilroy
Pencils: Jan Duursema
Inks: Ray Kryssing
Colours: Digital Chameleon, Dan Jackson, Chris Horn, Jason Hvam, Dave Nestelle, Dave McCaig
Lettering: Steve Dutro

The art by Jan Duursema, who’s done quite a bit of Star Wars work in comics, is better than the art for Episode I. It’s very dark though, she uses a lot of inks and sometimes it’s too much. I appreciate how she embellished her art and avoided trying to simply draw screen captures of the film. She also changes the composition or a few scenes, giving us a different camera view than what we’re used to seeing.

Henry Gilroy scripted the adaptation for The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones but they’re both rather different comics. I’m certain that a lot of the differences have to do with the differences between both movies. While The Phantom Menace had a lot of dialogue with a few action sequences spread throughout the movie, Attack of the Clones has the same two types of sequences but the balance has shifted. There is more action and less dialogue and that has an impact on the adaptation. Similarly to the scripters for the adaptation of the original trilogy, Gilroy uses narration to help reduce the length of the action scenes. The battles on Geonosis, Obi-Wan and Jango Fett’s fight on Kamino, the lightsaber duel against Count Dooku, all of the action scenes use narration in some capacity. It works well because the action doesn’t feel as breezy and unimportant as they did in the adaptation of Episode I. These action scenes matter and the narration helps to slow it down and provide the reader with important, and sometimes even interesting, details. In every way, the adaptation for Attack of the Clones is better than the adaptation of The Phantom Menace. There is a noticeable improvement in storytelling and the result is a more enjoyable comic but it still fails to deliver as much impact as the movie.

Yoda dude, don't hold that lightsaber so close to your face. It's drying our your skin.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Script: Miles Lane
Art: Doug Wheatley
Colours: Christopher Chuckry
Lettering: Michael David Thomas

After reading the comic book adaptation of Episode III, I’m very glad I decided to read these stories in the order in which the films were released because Revenge of the Sith is the best of all six adaptations by a considerable margin. It makes for a good way to end this trip through the comic book adaptations of the saga.

It’s pretty simple to see why this is a better adaptation than the others. For starters, it flows well. There are very few weird cuts or transitions from one scene to another. It doesn’t read like it’s adapting anything. To the contrary, it reads like an original comic story, the elements from the first half of the story progressively build to the elements of the second half and even though it’s titled Episode III, the end is quite satisfying. It also helps that like the story in the adaptation of A New Hope, this story focuses quite clearly on one main character and those closest to him. It’s Anakin’s story, everybody else is supporting that story. The story is tight, even when characters go off to do their own thing; it ties it to what’s happening to Anakin. That consistency in the story certainly helped with how well it could be adapted to another medium.
Naturally, some of the scenes in the movie are cut short, particularly the action sequences. I don’t mind because it actually helps to accentuate the focus on Anakin. Besides, the scenes are all there, They’re all here, the rescue of Chancellor Palpatine, the duel between Obi-Wan and General Grievous on Utapau, Yoda helping the Wookiees on Kashyyyk, the duel with the Sith Lord, Order 66 and of course the climactic battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. They’re all shorter, yes, but those condensed sequences are well balanced by more dialogue heavy scenes which serve the purpose of plot and character development.  

The art is also the best of any of the adaptations. It has a painted quality that increases the sense of realism without relying on a heavy use of crosshatchings. The colouring palette is also less bright than the colouring for the adaptations of the previous episodes. It helps to reinforce the thematic elements of Anakin’s journey to the dark side as well as avoid the cartoonish look of some of the scenes in Episode I.

If you want to read a comic adaptation of the Star Wars film, do yourself a favour and start with this one. You won’t be disappointed with is like you would be if you read any of the other adaptations. Really, the most interesting thing about reading this collection was seeing how different creative teams adapted the movies. Some were very success, others considerably less so.