REVIEW: MONSTRESS VOLUME 1, AWAKENING

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening (Monstress, #1)Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely stunning combination of artwork, non-traditional and traditional fantasy tropes, sexual politics, and quest narrative that hits the mark at every available opportunity. Looks utterly beautiful, is complex in both its character motivations and story, and just excels in every way it is possible for a comic book to do so. Books like this are the reason why the comic book format exists: to tell a story that cannot be encompassed by text or image alone, but by both forms combined. A wonderful and wondrous work.

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REVIEW: THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE, VOLUME 1– 1904-1939

The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939The Life of Graham Greene, Vol. 1: 1904-1939 by Norman Sherry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A dense and exhausting tome covering the first 35 years of Greene’s life, from birth to the dawn of WWII. Sherry delves deeply into not only Greene’s own memories, but interviews with those who knew him at the time and a mass of collected documentation– sometimes too deeply, as after fascinating accounts of his schooling and University day, a long and tedious picking apart of love letters with his first wife Vivien when courting threaten to derail the reading experience. Thankfully, the narrative regains its momentum when the minutiae of a very ordinary courtship are over and the book returns to detailing the extraordinary course of Greene’s life, closing with his solitary journey through a savagely Anti-Catholic Mexico and returning to England to find war preparations very much afoot.

Although Sherry can’t resist the occasional moment of hero-worship and self-aggrandisement, he generally lets Greene’s life speak for itself, and the result is an impressively collated and thoroughly enjoyable examination of the insipirations and influences on one of the most important literary figures of the 20th Century.

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REVIEW: X-MEN LEGACY– LEGION OMNIBUS

X-Men Legacy: Legion: OmnibusX-Men Legacy: Legion: Omnibus by Simon Spurrier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunning extension of the graphic novel art that is reminiscent of the high points of Vertigo’s initial burst of creativity and experimentation. Superhero tropes are deliberately inverted, then examined and shown to be the ridiculous soap-operas we know they are. The ongoing X-plots and wider Marvel world are confronted and dismissed as irrelevant and trifling. And the book moves beyond them to explore deeper issues of individuality, personality, psychology and conformity through the lens of a potentially all-powerful mind who has finally escaped from years of psychological abuse at the hands of characters held up by the majority as heroes and examples to follow.

The writing is razor-sharp, the art and colours are swirlingly psychedelic, the characters are bright and unusual, and the whole thing grabs the tiger’s tail and refuses to let go until the entire dizzy ride is over. Even the ending refuses to back down and soothe us with latex-clad platitudes. There are consequences, and finalities, and when the coup de grace arrives, it does so with meaning.

One of the best graphic novels I’ve read in years. Highly recommended.

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IMDb: Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5979874/

20 years after humanity is driven from Earth by kaiju, the remaining 4000 survivors return, determined to destroy Godzilla and reclaim the planet. A planet that– due to time dilation– has spent 20,000 years evolving into a perfect environment for the species’ that now inhabit it.

So, essentially, 4000 humans set out on a deliberate campaign of environmental genocide out of a hubristic sense of entitlement (If I had a dollar for every time a character cries “It’s our planet!” I could afford a really nice lunch.) and somehow the audience is expected to side with them.

Nobody watches a Godzilla movie because of its intelligent, nuanced scriptwriting. But this is as stupid a movie as I have ever seen. Not even the beautiful graphics– and the big G is beautiful— can save it. This movie is simply too dumb to live.

REVIEW: SECRET AVENGERS

Secret InvasionSecret Invasion by Brian Michael Bendis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s obviously a huge task to establish, narrate, and then wrap up a cohesive narrative in a single graphic novel, when that narrative has been the basis of a massive, company-wide story line that has run for a significant amount of time over a wide range of titles. Even so, this feels truncated and somehow lightweight. It breezes across all the major story points without given any weight or time to anything, leaving the result feeling like a series of random team-ups punching on without any coherence or consequence. Characters act without logic, turning points breeze past without any importance, and the climactic solution, when it arrives, pretty much happens within two panels, isn’t explained our expanded upon, and leaves the reader wondering what the whole point of anything was. The whole thing is tied together with Bendis’ usual character weaknesses– everybody is witty, snappy, and ultimately, sounds exactly the same as everybody else. The whole thing is fun, in a kind of guest-star-of-the-week kind of way, but for the climax of a major story line, it all feels rather inconsequential.

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REVIEW: THE MURDER OF NELLIE DUFFY

The Murder Of Nellie DuffyThe Murder Of Nellie Duffy by Stephanie Bennett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An intriguing examination of a notorious Northern Queensland murder in the early years of the 20th Century, which picks apart the various personalities at the remote cattle station at which it happened, as well as the gross incompetency of the police and the possible interference on the part of the powerful meat company that owned the property. The insight into the treatment of women and Aborigines of the time is stark, and at times confronting. Narrated as a straight retelling of the known facts, it presents a compelling mosaic of the attitudes and culture of the time.

Bennett’s style is slightly messy, and doesn’t do quite enough to keep all the players on the board, so that when certain names crop up late in the narrative it takes too long to recall how they fit into the story. The book is further weakened by Bennett’s predilection for speculating on motives and reasons, often spinning narrative chains with little more than supposition to go on. The second to last chapter, where she presents her own theory as to the murderer and the reasons for their actions, is gossamer-thin and weakens the book considerably.

Had she avoided the conceit of her own imagination, and simply laid out all the pieces of what is an engrossing mystery in its own right, this would have been a much stronger and more compelling read. As it is, it slips towards the ‘amateur historian’ style of writing, and is merely a good book when it could have been a must-read.

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REVIEW: CHURCHILL’S MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE

Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler's DefeatChurchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare: The Mavericks Who Plotted Hitler’s Defeat by Giles Milton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Absolutely fascinating insight into the formation, development, and successes of a typically British endeavour: a disparate collection of professional soldiers, backyard garage boffins, Oxbridge Mafia types and gentlemen of ill-repute who were drawn together to create the definite rule book and arsenal of sabotage, assassination, and guerrilla warfare.

Milton draws on multiple sources to provide a comprehensive and seamless narrative, including the campaign of obstruction that was waged against the department by members of the military hierarchy, particularly Air Command. The result is an intricate and compelling account of a hidden war that defied the known rules and brought enormous success to the Allied cause, as well as the complex and unusual personalities who drove it. Fantastic stuff.

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