Graphic Novel Review of “Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus” by Chester Brown

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By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56243974

Awards

None that I can find, however, Chester Brown is a highly acclaimed author for many of his other works.

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Stats

3 out of 5 stars

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus by 
Chester Brown

Hardcover, 280 pages

Published April 12th, 2016 by Drawn and Quarterly

ISBN 1770462341 (ISBN13: 9781770462342)

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http://www.pastemagazine.com

About

From the publisher, “The iconoclastic and bestselling cartoonist of Paying for It: A comic-strip memoir about being a john and Louis Riel returns and with a polemical interpretation of the Bible that will be one of the most controversial and talked-about graphic novels of 2016. Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus is the retelling in comics form of nine biblical stories that present Chester Brown’s fascinating and startling thesis about biblical representations of prostitution. Brown weaves a connecting line between Bathsheba, Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, Mary of Bethany, and the Virgin Mother. He reassesses the Christian moral code by examining the cultural implications of the Bible’s representations of sex work.”

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Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus is a fitting follow-up to Brown’s sui generis graphic memoir “Paying for It”, which was reviewed twice in The New York Times and hailed by sex workers for Brown’s advocacy for the decriminalization and normalization of prostitution. Brown approaches the Bible as he did the life of Louis Riel, making these stories compellingly readable and utterly pertinent to a modern audience. In classic Chester Brown fashion, he provides extensive handwritten endnotes that delve into the biblical lore that informs Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus.”

My Thoughts

This novel is a fitting followup to Chester Brown’s “Paying For It;” a practical and positive look at what it is being a John and hiring a prostitute. Paying For It is hailed by sex workers for its advocacy of Prostitution and normalization thereof.

Brown has been a vocal advocate for many years for sex workers, and it is evident in many of his works. He reminds me of a guy who is obsessed with Star Trek, or bugs, or 16th-century weaponry used in northern France. Nothing wrong with being passionate about something, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to be stuck on a road trip with him. He seems very very intense…

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This collection is fascinating in how he approached nine individual Bible stories, completely turned them on their head, and presented them in a new way. All the while threading them together into a cohesive thesis on his beliefs. Some of the stories featured are of Bathsheba, the prodigal son, Cain and Abel, Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, Mary of Bethany, and the Virgin Mother. One of his stories shows Mary as a prostitute but still very much loved by God and fit to be the mother of Jesus.

Prostitutes, who often are demonized by the Christian church and society are shown as people who just have a job to do. The novel is definitely polemic, and if you are an easily offended reader or prefer to not read something that has religious overtones, maybe this book is not for you.  However, it is a quick read, and sometimes stories need to be turned on their side to see things from a new angle. Whether or not you believe them to be the truth, much as the author does, it doesn’t matter. Enjoy the well-written stories and the simple but still elegant graphics. If these stories intrigue you, and you would like to know more there are 100 pages on notes at the back of the book detailing why he made certain literary and artistic decisions and the research behind them.

I didn’t necessarily like this graphic novel, but it was indeed interesting. Sometimes interesting and thought-provoking are good. I have one of Brown’s other works, Ed the Happy Clown sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. We will see what kind of rabbit hole it leads me down.

Graphic Novel Review of “Mouse Guard Fall: 1152” by David Peterson

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Stats

Hardcover, First Edition, 192 pages
Published July 21st 2009 by Archaia (first published May 30th, 2007)
Original Title
Mouse Guard: Fall 1152
ISBN 1932386572 (ISBN13: 9781932386578)
Edition Language English

Awards

Winner of “Best Publication for Kids” Eisner Award, for Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 and Mouse Guard: Winter 1152.

Winner of “Best Graphic Album-Reprint” Eisner Award, for Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.

#87 on the Goodreads Best Comics Ever List

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Book Summary

“Take no duty of the Guard lightly. Friends must not be enemies
Just as enemies must not be friends.
Discerning the two is a life’s work.”
― David Petersen

From the publisher,” The forest is a dangerous place for any animal, especially one as small as a mouse. In the past, the mouse world endured a tyrannical Weasel Warlord until a noble band of mouse soldiers fought back. Ever since the Mouse Guard has defended the paces and prosperity of its kingdom. For generations, this league of scouts, weather-watchers, trailblazers, and protectors has passed won its knowledge and skills.

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Now three of the Guard’s finest have been dispatched. The mission seems simple: They are to find a missing mouse, a grain merchant who never arrived at his destination. But when they see him, they make a shocking discovery—one that involves a treacherous betrayal, a stolen secret, and a rising power that has only one goal: to bring down the Guard…”

My Thoughts

“The best solution is always found at the point of my sword.”―Saxon’s belief

If you were walking around a bookstore and came across this book sitting on a shelf you would think that with its cartoonish depictions of animals wielding swords and bright colors that it was a children’s book. You could not be further from the truth. This is a very nuanced story about betrayal, bravery, endurance, and sincerity; it is most certainly not a children’s story.

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artstation.com

To start off, imagine what it is like to be a mouse in the first place they are small, weak, and fearful. Mice are prey animals in nature. Their entire lives are spent in fear of the unknown next predator around the bend. Almost every creature in the forest could be a predator to them. In response, you build your home in the most protected and sheltered spot you can find and hope for the best. Now imagine you are a guard mouse. You are weak and small by nature. However, you have learned to be strong because you have to be.  You must be brave because the smaller you are, the more bravery means and there are mice to protect. Thus flows the story of mice who are brave sent out into the forest to protect the weaker.

Stylistically, the panels are superbly drawn. The illustrations look as if they glow from within like light shining through the trees in autumn. Wind could rush therough my room as a read this and I would not be more convinced that it was fall. The illustrator completely nailed what fall is supposed to feel like.

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Conclusion

I would recommend this to anyone over the age of ten. I think if a child tried to read this before that age, much of the subtleties would be lost on them. But, I would especially recommend this to any comic book/graphic enthusiasts out there. This is a graphic novel that graphic novel lovers, love.

O’ Children – The Orphans of Harry Potter

I was laying in the tub today trying to grasp a slippery thought. I have most of my semi-deep, to semi-ridiculous ideas while neck deep in the suds. Goes back to my deep and unabiding love of bath bombs from Lush. The problem was that I had had a song on repeat in my head for two days. It was maddening. Especially when it is only a few bars of it. It was as if the thought was made of eel and Vasoline in equal parts, and every time I got just enough of it to push the song into coalescence it slipped through my mental fingers. By the time I had become sufficiently pruned, and the last of our sad little hot water heater was sputtering its last blessed drops, I had figured it out. I had the epiphanic moment.

The song was “O’Children” by Nick Cave, and the Bad Seeds and the scene was the dance scene from Harry Potter 8.

The connection that had been bouncing around my neurons for two days  Weird right. But I

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

have funny thoughts pass through my brain a lot while nackt in der Badewanne (naked in the bath – practicing my German). There is a scene in Harry Potter 8 that is both lovely and mellow; until this point, I wouldn’t have described it as brilliant.  But it is utterly brilliant, and wonderfully written now that I think about it. When Harry and Hermione are waiting together in their tent. Ron had just left their expedition in a fit of madness and rage. Both Ron and Hermione are feeling down in different ways. It is an exceptionally well-acted scene, showcasing the talents of Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliff. They are listening to the radio, waiting for news, for death, for anything, when Nick Cave comes on. His voice is melodious but dark and deep and slow.  This is definitely not music you would usually dance to.

Do you remember where you were when you saw this scene? Did you hate it? Love it? In the Harry Potter film universe, it is one of the most divisive scenes ever written. On first watching, you could assume that it is hinting at a possible romantic connection between the lead characters. But, not everything has to be about romantic love. Harry and Hermione are completely worn down like butter scraped over to much bread. The body language of the scene suggests this. Hermione is almost fetal while Harry is at the far edge of the scene. The lighting of the scene suggests a somber dark and shadowy environment. Harry walks over to Hermione and takes her hand and begins to dance in a goofy way. For one blissful moment, they escape their lives

O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

and dance together in the joy of friendship. A way that two friends would do to cheer themselves up. To bring a moment of levity into their world that is falling apart. The music is, for me, one of the best selections in a cinematic scene ever done. Bold words.

Here me out, and take a look at the lyrics.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – O’ Children

[Verse 1]
Pass me that lovely little gun
My dear, my darling one
The cleaners are coming, one by one
You don’t even want to let them start

They are knocking now upon your door
They measure the room, they know the score
They’re mopping up the butcher’s floor
Of your broken little hearts

O children
Forgive us now for what we’ve done
It started out as a bit of fun
Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice
Come on, come on, come on, come on

[Verse 2]
Here comes Frank and poor old Jim
They’re gathering round with all my friends
We’re older now, the light is dim

And you are only just beginning

O children

We have the answer to all your fears
It’s short, it’s simple, it’s crystal clear
It’s round about and it’s somewhere here
Lost amongst our winnings

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

[Verse 3]
The cleaners have done their job on you
They’re hip to it, man, they’re in the groove
They’ve hosed you down, you’re good as new
And they’re lining up to inspect you

O children
Poor old Jim’s white as a ghost
He’s found the answer that we lost
We’re all weeping now, weeping because
There ain’t nothing we can do to protect you

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice
[Outro]
Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

Hey, little train! Wait for me!
I once was blind but now I see
Have you left a seat for me?
Is that such a stretch of the imagination?

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
It’s beyond my wildest expectation

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

The lyrics talk of a world being destroyed by the adults of the system, and it is up to the children to sort it out. It is hopeful. The bombs may be dropping, the world might be ending, but lift your voice children for there is always hope. Rejoice in that.

This is what the Harry Potter story is. I think it is even more powerful when you think of Harry and Hermione as lone orphans. Harry against his will, and Hermione to protect her parents. Both children, fighting a battle and losing. Alone in the world, and now abandoned by their third. Lift your voice children and dance.  Rejoice.

It is a really damn powerful scene, and I have so much more appreciation for it now that I can look at it through the lens of time.

Graphic Novel Review – Guinea Pigs by Benacquista Tonino, Barral Nicolas (Illustrator)

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Stats

Paperback

Published February 14th, 2018 by Europe Comics (first published January 17th, 2014)

ISBN13 9791032805107

About

From the publisher, “A pharmaceutical testing center. Three human test subjects. Three pills a day for twenty-one days. And at the end, a check for 3,500 euros. Our three guinea pigs begin the test thinking they’re in it for the money. Three weeks later, they leave transformed. Have their dreams come true, or will their lives become living nightmares?”

My Thoughts

The premise of this story is one of those simple but not easy things. A pharmaceutical company has created a revolutionary drug they want to test in drug trials, subsequently, choosing three people as their guinea pigs. This drug takes individuals and frees them from their deepest inhibitions. If you are shy, you would become bold. If you are cowardly you would become courageous. The story is what happens to these three individuals and how they change morally from the effects of the drug. No, this is not some run-of-the-mill superhero story. They don’t receive powers from their magic pills. Imagine mixing the movie, “Limitless” with a moral tale. That’s these three.  The story progresses to testing, subsequent side effects, and societal changes. How does the world change around them once they have changed? Madness doesn’t ensue. Instead, the individuals get everything they wanted, good or bad.  

One of the drawbacks for me as a reader is I didn’t care about the characters. I wanted to, but it did not feel as if there was a true protagonist to the story to care about. Yes, the characters change. Yes, they do get their most “deep-seated” desires. But, although they change psychologically it does not necessarily equal to them being a protagonist. The only character I felt connected to in this was Daniel Martinez. Even then, in the story I do not understand his progression from family man, to living at home with his mother, to spy? It is all a bit hazy. 

One thing this story absolutely excelled at was flow. The pages read like a movie or TV show and moved from scene to scene effortlessly.  At the beginning of the story, before it got a bit hazy, I could see this being a TV series or movie. It read that well. 

Graphically, it is drawn very well. Kudos to Barral Nicolas. He nailed the characters and the settings. Instead of being a detractor, his use of a minimum colored palette helped define scenes and details. The coloring and illustration are solid completely throughout the story. 

In conclusion, I know this is a rather short write up and I wish I had more to say about this but I think the story lacked the meat for a weighty analysis. In the end, I liked it. It was a quick and good read. Is it the best thing I have ever read? No, but it is a worthy endeavor for an hours worth of reading. Check it out. 

 

 

 

Graphic Novel Review – What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucille De Pesloüan

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Stats

Paperback 

48 pages

Expected publication: March 18th, 2019 by Second Story Press

ISBN 1772600962

About

From the publisher, “What Makes Girls Sick and Tired is a feminist manifesto that denounces the discrimination against and unfairness felt by women from childhood to adulthood. The graphic novel, illustrated in a strikingly minimalist style with images of girls with varied body types and personalities, invites teenagers to question the sexism that surrounds us, in ways that are obvious and hidden, simple and complex. The book’s beginnings as a fanzine shine through in its honesty and directness, confronting the inequalities faced by young women, every day. And it ends with a line of hope, that with solidarity, girls will hurt less, as they hold each other up with support and encouragement.”

My Thoughts

I had the opportunity to review this through Netgalley, and I wasn’t disappointed. Although feminist fiction is not my usual repertoire, I am actively seeking out writers and books to learn and become more aware of it as a literary movement. This is a worthwhile example of feminist fiction that is well done and accessible. 

Let’s start with the good. This is a very approachable book for a young teenager. The imagery is simple, honest, and direct. The minimalist approach to the illustrations helps in keeping its punchy and biting style. Rather than come off as simplistic, the author comes off as personal and has obviously experienced these things first hand.  She makes the reader think and question the everyday sexism felt by women of all cultures, races, and sexual orientation. Furthermore, as approachable as this is it is also important for teenagers. Male, female or queer.  It is a good straightforward look at the complexities of sexism and feminism.

One of the things that I struggled with was each page was its own separate idea individual idea that had little to do with the page before it or after it. It felt disjointed in a way that was a jarring to me as a reader. I understand that this book is not a story, but rather single thoughts that are coherently joined together by the unifying discussion about discrimination and unfairness. Even with a unifying idea, it was too disjointed for me to be able to flow from one page to the next. 

All that being said, this is good. It took much of what women deal with on a daily basis and brought it to the forefront. I can absolutely see teenagers reading this and getting some perspective on the plights of women globally. Great read. 

Graphic Novel Review – Book Love by Debbie Tung

 

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“The book I’m reading is about a magical world of dragons and wizards! They go on adventures and explore unknown places! And then at the mansion in Hertfordshire, a wealthy man, and Mr. Darcy…Oh, wait…that’s a different story.”

“You’re reading two books at the same time again, huh?”

 

About

From the publisher, “Bookworms rejoice! These charming comics capture exactly what it feels like to be head-over-heels for hardcovers.

Book Love is a gift book of comics tailor-made for tea-sipping, spine-sniffing, book-hoarding bibliophiles. Debbie Tung’s comics are humorous and instantly recognizable—making readers laugh while precisely conveying the thoughts and habits of book nerds. Book Love is the ideal gift to let a book lover know they’re understood and appreciated.”

My Thoughts

On one hand, I do believe that Debbie Tung is my spirit animal.

 

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The feels. 

 

Who else but my spirit animal could understand my profound love of books? Thank you, Debbie Tung, for illustrating what I feel so deeply when I hold a book. I literally cried when Harry Potter was over and was straight up depressed that I live in a world with no powers or anything cool.

 

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You understand my pain.

 

But on the other hand, I almost feel like I need to give up my book cred now. This book was just too long with too much love. At least it is for one sitting. This book reminds me of a gigantic chocolate milkshake. The largest chocolate milkshake in the history of all milkshakes. On the first sip, your taste buds are literally doing the salsa with all the flavor. On the 50th sip, it is still great but you are losing some of the subtler flavors. On the 150th sip, you are nauseated and will not drink another chocolate shake in the near future. This book is like that, well not the nauseated part.  I will happily adore, embrace, remember and understand her love of books (and mine as well) for about 50 pages. I have been in every one of the scenarios she draws adorable cartoons of. Believe me, I agree and get it. After page 50 it gets repetitive. There are only so many different scenarios in which I can get all the feels in one sitting. After page 100 it loses me.

 

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I have huffed so many books.

 

If a reader were to pick this up and randomly turn to any page, read it, smile, and move one about your day it would be perfect. Seriously perfect. These are scenarios that a reader can visit again and again.

I would recommend this for an adorable coffee table book. One that you turn to occasionally when you need a smile, read a few pages, get the feels and put down.

*All images are illustrations by Debbie Tung*

 

Novel Review – Cities in Flight by James Blish

“The end cannot justify the means; but if there are no other means, and the end is necessary…”
― James Blish, Cities in Flight

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Courtesy of https://davidmattingly.com/scifi/

About

Originally published in four volumes nearly fifty years ago, Cities in Flight brings together the famed “Okie novels” of science fiction master James Blish. Named after the migrant workers of America’s Dust Bowl, these novels convey Blish’s “history of the future,” a brilliant and bleak look at a world where cities roam the Galaxy looking for work and a sustainable way of life.

In the first novel, They Shall Have Stars, man has thoroughly explored the Solar System, yet the dream of going even further seems to have died in all but one man. His battle to realize his dream results in two momentous discoveries anti-gravity and the secret of immortality. In A Life for the Stars, it is centuries later and anti-gravity generations have enabled whole cities to lift off the surface of the earth to become galactic wanderers. In Earthman, Come Home, the nomadic cities revert to barbarism and marauding rogue cities begin to pose a threat to all civilized worlds. In the final novel, The Triumph of Time, history repeats itself as the cities once again journey back in to space making a terrifying discovery which could destroy the entire Universe. A serious and haunting vision of our world and its limits, Cities in Flight marks the return to print of one of science fiction’s most inimitable writers.

A Selection of the Science Fiction Book Club

Awards

Posthumous Awards and nominations

  • 2001 [1951] Retro-Hugo Award nomination for Best Novelette, for “Okie”.
  • 2004 [1954] Retro-Hugo Award for Best Novelette, for “Earthman, Come Home”.

My Thoughts

141805I don’t often do reviews of classic science fiction. It is not that I haven’t read a great deal of it nor am I not interested in it, quite the contrary. I LOVE golden era science fiction. I think some of the greatest literature that has ever came about came out of that era. Early novels are staggeringly important to how science fiction is written now. Tropes and all. Where would we be without books like, “Brave New World,” now more poignant and prophetic as ever? Like with anything in life, if you are trying to garner a true embracement of the genre, look to the roots of it.  I am no expert by any means in science fiction. But, a few years ago I set myself a challenge of reading as many of these classic science fiction novels as possible. I wanted to learn, embrace, and understand. I am so glad I did. This is one of the beauties that was recommended to me by my father, a lover of old science fiction himself.

1003150All of this chatter is a great big segway into the sheer coolness that is “Cities in Flight.” It is considered one of the benchmark hard science fiction novels of the 1950’s and also considered one of the granddaddies of modern hard science fiction. Having garnered Retro Hugo awards in the process.  This books takes two of my favorite things and slams them together into an architecture/science fiction sandwich. Whole cities lift off the Earth and race towards the stars searching out work from other planets. He took the concept of an okie and turned it on its ear.  Each one of these cities still specializes in their main product. Pennsylvanian mining cities now astro-mine and asteroids. New York is a seat of culture for the universe as we know it. Washington DC is the politics. These cities escape a Soviet-dominated rule on earth by heading to the stars via a spindizzy. A spindizzy is the Deus ex Machina of the story.  It is a propulsion and shield system that allows faster than light travel simultaneously making an impenetrable shield.  This is a typical story trope of that time with the fear of communism and McCarthyism ages and dates the story a bit. At the same time as the discovery of the spindizzy; humans create an anti-aging drug that allows humans to travel great distances and pretty much never die unless they choose to. We now have all the factors for unlimited travel. Humans do not age, with a ship that is powered by a machine that needs no batteries, it goes faster than light speed and is completely shielded.

The book, “Cities in Flight” is technically 4 small books that Blish wrote and released independently that eventually became one large book; “They Shall Have Stars,” “A Life for the Stars,” “Earthman Come Home,” and “A Clash of Cymbals.”  Collectively called the Okie Chronicles or Cities in FlightTogether they follow the creation of the spindizzy, the adventure of sixteen-year-old Chris deFord who accidentally ended up on ship Philadelphia, book three is the adventure of ship New York, and book 4 follows the traveling of New York and the new spindizzy planet “He” that undertakes the first intergalactic transit.

While traversing these four books know a few things. The first book is a slog. Matter-a-fact there are no cities yet that have lifted off. It does set the stage for future books, however. Book 2 is a bit juvenile. It touches on McCarthyism and many of the fears of the mid-1950’s. Book three is where it gets interesting. The characters, specifically Amalfi (Mayor of New York) are well written. Some of the characters are harder to read than others. Especially women. Writing in this genre has come a long way. If you can step back from how this story has aged and character flatness, the plot is such a grand idea.

I say try it if you want to leap to the golden era. If you like it there is a literal treasure trove of stories that await you: “Day of the Triffids,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” “I.Robot.” I can go on and on.

If you have any suggestions for books to check out leave a comment in the comment section!