Monday, January 19, 2015

The Midas Flesh Vol. 1

The Midas Flesh Vol. 1 The Midas Flesh Vol. 1 by Ryan North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The premise of this comic is fantastic, and I don’t blame Ryan North for working on it for 10 years, just to find the right way to tell it. We all know the story of King Midas, who was both blessed and cursed with the ability to turn things to gold with a single touch. But what if that golden touch was transmuted through objects as well, turning everything that touched an object Midas was touching into gold as well, including air? It wouldn’t be long before the whole planet is covered in gold, everything dead and frozen, all turned literally into gold.

That is exactly what happens in this book, but the story doesn’t end there. Centuries after the Midas “miracle”, another race of people (that look remarkably like humans) happen upon the planet, realize what is going on, and quickly erase the planet from their maps and database, to hide the potential weapon from the rest of the universe.

Oh, you didn’t realize this was a weapon? Well, in the planetary war we are thrown into, an all-powerful Federation is in control, and a few rebels who stumbled upon long-lost information about the golden planet are trying to fight back to rescue their people. A team of three (Joey, Conner, and Fatima) travel to the gold planet to try to figure out a way to weaponize whatever caused the golden epidemic, because if they can harness that power, they can use it to stop the Federation. Instead of a mechanized weapon, though, what holds the power is literally Midas’ flesh and blood. And they quickly discover possessing the Flesh isn’t the same as being able to use it.

So far, I love the characters and find the plot really intriguing. So far, we’ve seen a little bit of Conner the dinosaur’s backstory (Did I mention there were dinosaurs? THERE ARE DINOSAURS!!), but I can’t wait to hear more about Joey and Fatima’s motivations. It’s easy to see why Conner is fighting back – his wife was murdered and his people destroyed by the Federation. He either runs and lives in hiding his whole life or fights back at this point. But Joey and Fatima both appear to be humanoid somehow, so I haven’t quite figured out why they are on the wrong side of the Federation.

There are a few things so far that are rather curious. First, that humanoid beings could possibly develop somewhere other than Earth is pretty far-fetched. Also, all the aliens of all species seem to speak English, which is pretty much not just improbably, but impossible. At least North acknowledges the unlikelihood of this when he has them able to read the crown that says “MIDAS” and argue over the likelihood of being able to read the language of a foreign planet. That made me laugh, and I understand that simplifying the language and cultural barriers makes it easier to focus on plot. I’d rather have interesting, well-written story and characters that just happen to speak the same language.

Last but certainly not least, I love Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb’s artwork. The style is simple and engaging, and I appreciated being able to read in the back about not only North’s process of creating the comic, but the artists’ process of visual conceptualization, from establishing a visual style to the collaborative process. The more cartoony style of art really suits the subject matter well, and I can imagine the art style appealing to not just adults like me, but also to kids.

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Black Widow, Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread

Black Widow, Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread Black Widow, Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmondson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had a vague fondness for Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanov, since the Avengers movie, but I've never really known too much about her. I've heard, though, that they'll be diving more into her backstory in Avengers 2, so I thought I'd read up a little more on her.

This book is just fantastic. It's full of adventure and emotion without detailing everything in Natasha's past. I know enough about her to sense her regret and understand why she lives the way she does now. No matter what she's done in the past, who she is now is someone to admire and look up to, whether she believes she is worthy or not. Also, she has a adorable black cat just like me.

Phil Noto's artwork is perfection. I love the way he draws Natasha, strong and beautiful but not over-the-top bombshell. She's a fierce super spy, not someone there just as eye candy. There is something about Noto's art that is almost watercolor-like. It's very fluid and loose, graphic without being hard lines and block shapes. I am clearly not an art critic, as I try to explain why I love this art so much. I just do.

Though different in style, this book feels much like Fraction's Hawkeye book, an expose on what Avengers do when they're not saving the world as part of a super-team. Like Clint Barton, Natasha is one of the few Avengers without anyone super powers or magical suit, so it feels a little more down to earth. They are just humans like us, after all. In a way. And I loved the little scene with Clint falling out of a building behind Natasha, and her lawyer saying "That looks bad." HA! Hawkeye reference FTW! I'll definitely continue to follow this book, and look forward to the next trade publication, whenever that may be.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

I'll Give You the Sun

I'll Give You the Sun I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gorgeous and moving and heart-breaking and hopeful, all at the same time. The writing is so transcendent and descriptive, it often felt like I could see the action taking place in front of my eyes. I loved the narrators alternating between Noah at age 13/14, telling the story of what broke them, to Jude at age 16, telling the story of how they were healed. The more we lived inside each of their heads, the more we loved each of them, and truly felt both their agony and ecstasy.

I loved living inside Noah's head because everything was vivid Technicolor, full of life and felt with deep passion. His brilliance both connected him with and disconnected him from the world around him. When we finally got inside Jude's head, she was so locked up with guilt, she was being strangled by it. If she hadn't met Oscar and Guillermo, if she hadn't fought to free herself from her stone prison, if the secrets hadn't come out, she would have eventually imploded.

Most of the time, when teens fall in love and talk about forever and soul mates, the cynic in me rises up and rolls her eyes and says, "yeah, sure." Despite my natural cynicism, though, I found myself truly believing in the emotional connections between these characters, in the whole idea of split-apart souls, and people who are meant to be together. It doesn't mean I don't think there's anyone else out there that Noah and Jude could be happy with, other than Brian and Oscar; it just means I believe in the strength of their connection, their passion to be together. Who knows what will happen down the road, but for now, they have each other, and they have happiness.

I love how interconnected everyone was, the impact each person had on the twins and each other. Noah and Jude both knew Oscar, but a different version of Oscar. Noah and Jude both knew Guillermo, but a different version of Guillermo. Noah and Jude both loved their mother, but knew a different version of her. The accident was no one's fault, and changed everything; but somehow, still, nothing was changed. The twins' mother is a hard character to deal with because she has such a strong pull on their lives, and the power to make them delirious happy or ridiculously miserable. I truly believe that she loved the twins' father, so it's heartbreaking to see their relationship fall apart.

Most of the time, when books wrap up happily (or as happily as they can), as much as I desire happy endings, part of my can't help but think, "well, that was convenient." Not so this time: this ending felt happy in its own way and perfectly perfect, and this is definitely a book I'd recommend.

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