#CBR IV Review 10: WE3 by Grant Morrison

We3 was a miniseries by Grant Morrison, an author whom I have seen referenced but not read before, as he seems to generally write with superhero graphic novels. I received this as a gift, as the website my husband was reading highly recommended it. While I really enjoyed the art, and appreciated the story, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed this book.

The plot centres around three lost pets who are used as test animals by the military, attempting to replace human soldiers with animals in cybernetic suits, basically. The dog, cat and rabbit are able to communicate with each other and are successful soldiers, so the military decides the experiment is a success and they are no longer needed. Survival instincts kick in and things start to get violent as the animals search for home. The story is complex, really, dealing with how humans treat animals, the morality of the military, and the need for home. However, the story is so violent and sad that it is hard to really enjoy. Each of the three issues included a MISSING poster for each of animals, they try to look after one another as best as they can, and the dog berates himself as he attacks the humans trying to hurt him and his friends. The special feature at the back of the deluxe edition indicates that Morrison and illustrator Frank Quitely were trying to create a dynamic way of presenting the action scenes. They are almost photorealistic, and are shown in distinct, disjointed panels that are intended to show that the animals experience time at a different rate than do humans. The violence is very graphic, and is incredibly well done as well as being disturbing.

I can appreciate that the story is complete, as would be a finely written short story. The art is dramatic and well thought out, and the novel is both moving and exciting, but it isn’t one that I would ever read again. It just made me feel a bit sad and uncomfortable, which may be the point of such a story, but doesn’t make for a relaxing and enjoyable reading experience.

#CBR IV Review 9: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

It felt like I was the only person left in the world who had not read the trilogy, but the movie looked great so I made certain to read The Hunger Games in advance of the movie, because that’s how big of a nerd I am. I finished the first book at 2 am, the same day as borrowing it from a friend. We were both on the world’s longest wait list at the library for the next two, so I went out and bought the boxed set for us to share. I’m a grown up, I can impulse purchase a complete set of YA novels if I like, yes indeed.

It is hard to add anything new to the discussion of the novel, but I will throw out a few ideas anyways, largely related to how the movie is tied to the book. I recall that when the film was first announced, there were many concerns about the casting, particularly with the three leads. Having not read the books and not being overly familiar with the actors, I did not pay an enormous amount of attention to the discussion, but I now wonder how my perception of the characters as I was reading was coloured by knowing which actors would play them. Having seen the movie, I do not have any complaints about the casting, but was kind of disappointed by the depiction of the Capitol, strangely. For the most part, it seemed like a lot of concrete and just not shiny enough, but perhaps that is something that will seem a little more glamourous in the sequels. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, as did a friend I took who has not read the books, not being a fan of YA books on principle.

Like most people, I really loved the character of Katniss. I of course admire her selflessness and her courage, but also her focus. Once selected as a tribute, she struggled and fought and strategized. She is often compared to Bella from the Twilight novels, most notably in how Bella is nothing without her boyfriend (admission: I am generalizing as I have little familiarity with the series) and how Katniss does her best to rid herself of any romantic complications, but I think the more interesting distinction is how Bella is both so self absorbed  and has such little self regard that she deliberately and repeatedly puts herself in danger, but also seems to sit back and wait for people to act around and for her. In contrast, Katniss carefully considers her actions and their repercussions on the survival of both herself but those she is responsible for. While not perfect by any stretch, Katniss is smart and self-reliant, and is able to see herself as part of a whole.

The story itself is also very exciting, with a strong narrative that moves quickly. Collins does excellent work in constructing an interesting story with some fairly heavy themes in the background, including the strangely unreal nature of reality television, as well as showing how fear is used in a totalitarian political system. Those ideas are not presented in a heavy handed manner, but woven into the plot as both background and as a driver of events. As mentioned above, I was very eager to continue reading the series, in much the same way as I felt about Harry Potter and The Sandman graphic novels, which is an excellent recommendation in itself.

#CBR IV Review 8: Fables Deluxe Edition Volumes 1-3 by Bill Willingham

I had initially intended to review each of these volumes individually, but it has been a few months since I first started this review, so my impressions are a bit fuzzy now. I read the first trade paperback a few years ago, and then the series fell of my radar. My trusty local library has since purchased the deluxe editions, which encompass a few trade paperbacks in each book, which is much more satisfying anyways.

For those who are not familiar with the series, the concept is that an evil creature known only as the Adversary has killed, enslaved or driven famous fairytale characters from their homeland over a period of years, and those individuals have taken refuge in our world. Some of them are hiding in plain sight in the “mundie” (mundane people = us) world in a New York neighborhood, while those who cannot pass as human live on The Farm, an enchanted tract of land in a rural area, isolated and protected from normal people. The characters have been living here for centuries.

Willingham does a nice job of carrying the main story arc throughout all of the collected stories, carrying the momentum while still creating individual and discrete tales for the characters. I understand that the fairy tale characters used in the book were chosen on the basis of their being in the free domain, but that includes the major characters like the Big Bad Wolf  and Jack (from a number of stories), Snow White, Cinderella, etc. I was unfamiliar with a few of the characters, such as Baba Yaga and her chicken-legged house, and several of the participants featured in the last stand taken in the Homelands. All the characters were interesting, though it was most fun to read about those that have been Disneyfied in popular culture but have a quite different portrayal in the graphic novels, particularly those princesses in the current Disney Princesses marketing campaign. I have kept most of that from my daughter, but reading about Snow White, Cinderella and Briar Rose all complain about their philandering con man ex-husband Prince Charming is very satisfying. Many of the stories are quite dark, and the majority of the characters are not very storybookish at all. Even Little Boy Blue, who has a very simple nursery rhyme and is a good character, has a tragic back story in the graphic novels.

The artists throughout the varies, although as the series progresses the art seems to have been handled largely by Mark Buckingham. It is likely less obvious when reading the stories as originally issued, but when they are bundled into the deluxe volumes, the change in style is kind of jarring. I noticed this particularly in the change in which Snow White is drawn throughout the series – I preferred the earlier, more adult looking Snow to the later Snow, who is much more delicate looking and always has hair in her face. A few of the stories are drawn completely differently, with the Barleycorn Brides and the Last Castle issues springing immediately to mind. I am not sure which style I prefer on the whole, but I think I prefer it when the art is more consistently drawn (a notable exception being The Sandman series, but Gaiman is an entirely different kettle of fish).

I have enjoyed reading the series, and am looking forward to reading the remainder of the books once they are added to the library’s collection, but I do not feel compelled to buy them as I did The Sandman, Y: Last Man Standing or The Unwritten.