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24 November 2016 @ 02:16 pm
publicBooks of 2016 - II  
11. X-Men Legacy: Aftermath by Carey, Davidson, Tolibao, Molina, and Sandoval
"The X-Men have emerged victorious from the fight of their lives, narrowly defeating Bastion and his army of Nimrod Sentinels. But the wounds run deep - and when one X-Man loses control, another does the unthinkable in retaliation. Then, following the shocking events of Age of X, the X-Men are left with memories of lives unlived and feelings never felt. Can the team pull together after witnessing the unimaginable, or will the burden of these recollections be too much for the X-Men to bear?"

This was a very fun and interesting rollercoaster! I'm left reeling by the number of characters that I had to get to grips with (I looked up a few people and their hinted-at backstories, but I remain clueless about the younger students) in addition to the non-stop action and drama, but things were less formulaic than in the Classics collection. Professor X's telepathy is one of the most interesting things in this universe (it's possibilites and limitations, why he isn't a sociopath bending everyone around him to his will, what being able to read minds must mean for him in terms of the ideas of individuality and personal boundaries), and Legion's abilities fascinate me too. I really liked seeing the aftermath of his actions, thinking about what that means about the nature of reality and personality. It was great to see Rogue being an actual character, leading and doing and making brave decisions, when in the films her potential was obvious, even wasted as it was. The female characters were all quite in contrast to those in the Classics collection - they seemed like independent humans with contradictory thoughts and emotions, who could save the day or fuck up, just like the dudes. (Even if they were wearing the most uncomfortable looking outfits at times... Cleavage windows just wouldn't work out, man - you'd be cold, and you'd get crumbs in there, plus getting off the superglue that's clearly necessary to keep your clothing on would be damn painful.) Although I did really enjoy this comic, and I'm feeling that excitement at the entry to a new world (so much to learn!), I can tell that I'll need a break before reading another volume. All the adrenaline and constant motion is overwhelming, and would become unpleasantly so if I kept going, like drowning. I'm far away from reality and the present moment while I'm reading these, and what I generally prefer in reading material is to feel brought closer to life.

12. Wonder Woman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told by various authors
"From her beginnings in the early 1940s to today's epics, these are the stories that made Wonder Woman a comic book legend. Included in this anthology are Wonder Woman's origin story, plus her epic battles with the Cheetah, Dr Psycho and others."

I actually thought that WW was canonically a lesbian, so that was slightly disappointing... Nevertheless, the origin and early stories with Steve Trevor are really fun, and I do actually like their relationship. There were a couple of 'like all women, Wonder Woman loves clothes!' moments, but otherwise no-one really remarked one way or the other upon the fact that she's female, which was really refreshing. And it was just great to see her leaping out of planes and lassooing enemies. She's just as wholesome as the Classic X-Men, but she's also much more frank and so there wasn't that public-schoolboy-style braggadocio. I loved the style of the last comic, in which Lois Lane is doing a Day in the Life of Wonder Woman piece. I liked the dialogue, and seeing the wide range of things that WW's capable of doing, the things that weigh upon her, the difficulties of being an Amazon in the human world, and the things she enjoys. Yet Lois' envy over Wonder Woman's relationship with Superman got to me a bit... Why couldn't Lois instead be jealous of Wonder Woman's influence on the world, or the fact that she doesn't have to be afraid for her physical safety, or her innate strength and speed? It was quite interestingly dealt with, in the end, and I am really looking forward to reading more WW, but especially to her interacting with women without men being a factor at all.

13. X-Men: Curse of the Mutants by Victor Gischler and Paco Medina
"When a suicide bomber strikes in downtown San Francisco, it gets the immediate attention of the X-Men. But this is not your garden variety terrorist - and he's not acting alone. Vampires from around the globe are descending en masse on the City by the Bay, staking a brutal claim for the patch of land the X-Men call their home. What is their agenda? Who is their mysterious leader? The X-Men are about to find out, as they brace themselves for a war of the species that will rock the Marvel Universe!"

This was another really enjoyable volume. I'm still soaking up information about all of the characters, and vaguely working out what's come before (mostly just who's alive and who's on the side of the X-Men, at this stage). I liked the brief appearance of Namor the Sub Mariner, and seeing all of the younger X-Men putting in their appearances in the battle scenes - though I still have no idea who most of them are, their powers looked awesome. These newer comics are really doing well with the team-building element that felt lacking in the Classic collection, a dramatic us-against-them where everyone looks as though they're conscious of the others and what they can do, and there's also more non-action relationship- and character-building, as you see people taking on various roles within the group and interacting with one another in those capacities. I'm really developing an affection for Rogue, still mostly due to her characterisation in fanfic, but starting to take account of this new (to me) canon. I liked the way they treated vampires, particularly the fact that all of the different sects were visibly distinct.

14. Forever Bitch by Diglee
« Chronique douce-amère d'une génération de pré-trentenaires paumées et attachantes. Après Autobiographie d'une fille Gaga et Confessions d'une glitter addict, le nouvel album de Diglee... Forever girly, forever Diglee!
Louise, bientôt la trentaine, en couple, partage ses drames émotionnels avec son BGF (Best Gay Friend) et ses deux meilleures potesses : Maud, Mère Teresa du plan cul depuis sa rupture avec l'ex-potentiel-homme-de-sa-vie, et Audrey, avec son prince charmant... au grand dam de Maud, viscéralement mais secrètement jalouse de tant de niaiserie doucereuse. »

I found this randomly in the flat that we rented in Montpellier, and was pretty excited, having read this awesome blog post of hers about female writers and their invisibility. I half liked it... I really liked the way she drew thighs and arses (because they actually looked like the thighs and arses of real people(!), unlike those in the other comics I've been reading), and there were some very funny moments, and some that were kind of reassuring (seeing what 'normal' people talk about [I've always had the sneaking suspicion that normal people talk about completely different things, things that I'll never know about...], and the idea that it's impossible to know what's going to happen to you, so rather than futilely attempt to control life, it may be best to just see where things go). On the other hand, these were fundamentally 'normal' women, going out drinking and clubbing and being conventionally attractive, and I felt a bit isolated by that, reminded of my teenage years spent on the outside, looking in at that kind of person and semi-wishing that I too were normal. Although I no longer want to fit into that world (I just don't really enjoy the things that they do), there is still a part of me that feels isolated and rejected when reminded that I can't gain entrance to that mainstream club.

15. X-Men: Élémentaire by Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel, David López
« Au cours d'un voyage en Europe, la jeune mutante nommée Jubilé porte secours à un nourrisson qui a survécu à une terrible explosion. Tandis qu'elle s'apprête à retourner auprès des X-Men, Jubilé s'aperçoit qu'un homme mystérieux est à ses trousses. Il s'agit du super-vilain John Sublime, une bactérie capable de prendre possession de n'importe quel individu. Les X-Men vont alors découvrir que la véritable menace ne vient pas de lui, mais de sa soeur jumelle, Arkea, qui peut contrôler tous les dispositifs technologiques! »

Man, I really love Olivier Coipel's art. The variation in the line art is really well done, the strong, smooth lines contrasting with the sketchier ones for the smaller details, particularly of faces, which I think is part of the reason that his characters have so much life and movement. Their poses and facial expressions are really dynamic too, and there're lots of changes in angle, distance, and page layout, which add to the energy. I also absolutely love the colours in the three issues that he drew (not sure how much influence he had over that? But the colours are quite markedly different in the fourth issue by López), beautifully vivid with excellent use of shadows for drama. Their costumes are awesome - Storm looks so freaking badass with her mohawk and her tuxedo-style suit (even though the cleavage window is at times ridiculous), and Rachel Grey's fiery armour is really cool. It's just so pleasant to see all these women wearing clothing pretty similar to the men's, rather than variations on bikinis. There were times when the poses that let you see both arse and breasts and the panels where boobs were the centrepiece were a bit tiresome, but in comparison to X-Men: Worlds Apart (which I just gave up on halfway through, because the upskirt and down-cleavage shots were making me sick), the objectification was palatable. I liked finding out a bit more about Rogue's abilities, and how the people whose powers she absorbs feel. Seeing them all in their roles as teachers and guardians at the school and on mission made me happy - their power, confidence, and ability to work together were great, as was the different ways in which they each reacted to and assumed their various responsabilities. The conflict between Storm and Rachel Grey seemed a bit manufactured from that point of view. The general story arc started out seeming tight, but got a bit vague towards the end, though it was still interesting. I'm sad that Coipel's not still working on the series, but I'm still looking forward to seeing what happens.

16. Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone, Terry and Rachel Dodson, Bernard Chang
"The birth of Diana, who would later become known as Wonder Woman, was a joyous occasion for the Amazons of Paradise Island. She was the first child born there, and was blessed by the gods with gifts of great strenght, speed and wisdom. But not everyone was happy for the newborn's arrival. Some saw Diana as causing a divide among the Amazon tride. And to this day, a dark secret about the dissenting Amazons has remained buried within Paradise Island.
What is The Circle, and what deadly secret do they hold about Diana's birth? All is revealed, as a familiar face from Wonder Woman's past returns with a mission to spy on Special Agent Diana Prince!"

Yessss, this is what I was looking for when I decided to try reading Wonder Woman! Although there are still rather more cleavage shots than is really necessary, I like the Dodsons' art: she looks so powerful! Her arm and back muscles are incredible, and she looks comfortable, strong, and confident; a complete badass. And the unfolding of the plot worked with this image, showing her planning, determined and getting shit done, not just leaping into meaningless action. The idea that her compassion is one of the central pillars of her character, what makes her unique and iconic, was handled so well - the way this side of her was explored made her the most three-dimensional character I've seen in comics thus far. The backstory surrounding her birth was really interesting, full of the traditional elements of some good drama: loyalty, love, betrayal, discord, bad decisions made for seemingly good reasons... I really hope this run will show us more of her childhood - the tiny snippet of her training with Hippolyta (or possibly another Amazon) kind of captured what I loved about this volume: the spirit of solidarity and community. I liked the colour palette of the Dodsons' issues too - dark and rich, giving it an epic-fantasy, timeless feel.

17. Wonder Woman: Contagion by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, Fernando Dagnino
Gail Simone continues her acclaimed run on WONDER WOMAN with this collection! Gail Simone and fan-favorite artist Nicola Scott reunite for this explosive tale featuring the stunning return of a star-spanning threat from Diana's past! Meanwhile, five mysterious young men with a dark and terrible secret have arrived on Paradise Island with one mission: To kill Wonder Woman! Guest-starring the Green Lantern Corps.

This is actually the fifth in Gail Simone's run with Wonder Woman, but I ended up reading it out of order as someone had reserved it at the library, and it wasn't too confusing. I didn't love it as much as The Circle, but I did still really enjoy it, and the cast of secondary characters was interesting. I liked Power Girl's role, and, even though it was sometimes a little too easy for her and the others who followed her lead, I really liked the fact that Wonder Woman continued to use diplomacy as her first salvo. That was quite intriguing in contrast and relation to the society of her main foes.

18. Wonder Woman: Ends of the Earth by Gail Simone, Aaron Lopresti, Bernard Chang
At the ends of the universe, Wonder Woman falls victim to the Black Horizon, risking the safety of her soul. To salvage her very existence, she must ally herself with the legendary Beowulf and another fearsome warrior from DC's past while trapped on a world where her powers have betrayed her and brutal combat rules the day. But will victory cost Wonder Woman her soul?
Featuring the long-awaited return of some of the most savage characters in DCU history, not to mention all-out war between Diana's Gorilla Knights and the Department of Metahuman Affairs!

This was a bit of a dip in quality, I think. The plots were slightly muddy, and things happened too quickly, one after another, without enough development. The romance also leaves me completely cold, and was a bigger feature of this edition. Nevertheless, the main arc with the time- and space-travel did have an interesting concept at heart, looking at what makes Wonder Woman herself, and her battle to remain true/return to that, despite a challenge at the deepest level. The scene where she calls on Kane Miohai stood out as defining her character - her nobility and her connection to her tribe and past.

19. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
“The bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity. In today's world, women have more power, legal recognition, and professional success than ever before. Alongside the evident progress of the women's movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It's the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society's impossible definition of "the flawless beauty."”

What an amazing book. I saw it recommended by a body positivity activist who I follow on Instagram (bodyposipanda) as a book which had helped her to see that it wasn’t surprising that she was once held hostage by her vicious battle to get the ‘perfect body’, as the Beauty Myth is a powerful force buffeting us from all sides. I wasn’t completely convinced by the book at first – it seemed a bit like a conspiracy theory – but the more I read, the more I was bowled over by Wolf’s endlessly hitting the nail on the head. I had many moments of realisation about things that I had half-thought, but not followed through to their logical conclusions (the beauty myth generates low self-esteem in women, which is in the interests of the marketplace p49; “breast surgery is of an ideology that restricts female sexuality to ‘beauty’” p245; women are mostly getting breast surgery “so that they can experience their own sexuality. In a diseased environment, they are doing this ‘for themselves’” p247; ‘beauty’ appears to be a shortcut to the things that feminists were discovering that it was hard to come by, e.g. safety and respect p282), and feelings of validation as I came to understand things about my relationship with my own body and the idea of beauty (girls learn that things happen only to beautiful women, whether or not they’re interesting people p61; “what little girls learn is not the desire for the other, but the desire to be desired” p157; when someone is uncomfortable in a sexual situation, objectifying themselves or the other can be self-protection p148). In addition to the impressive/depressing bulk of her collected evidence, the scope of the work, and her acuity, a major thought-provoking element is her theory that our society created and maintains the Beauty Myth because we passed through a time of great change (women moving en masse into the workforce) which threatened our existing social, political, and economic structures, and we needed something to control and slow that change, to allay our fears, and to prevent the collapse of our relatively stable lives.

20.Wonder Woman: Rise of the Olympian by Gail Simone, Aaron Lopresti, Bernard Chang
When the gods change their plans for man's world, it's up to Wonder Woman to protect humanity against an invading army of male warriors and a new adversary called Genocide. An army of Olympians has risen for an all-out assault on war across the globe and only Wonder Woman can stop them in this new title collecting issues #20-27! One particular attack could spell the end of the Department of Metahuman Affairs and end WW's secret identity of Diana Prince. And Wonder Woman's life is changed forever when she faces a monster named Genocide who goes toe-to-toe with her . . . and wins."

This arc by Gail Simone started out so strong with The Circle, but they've been getting progressively sillier, over-packed with Bigger, Better foes... The later collections just don't seem cohesive to me; while that first volume alterated between only two plot-strands, since then they've jumped all over the place, and even though I've liked particular ideas and themes, it's cluttered. In this volume, I liked the idea of Zeus taking Athena's request and going off in his own direction to fulfill it, completely counter to her intentions - this was an interesting way of building their characters, seeing their very different interpretations of the same situation, and this seems to fit in neatly with classic mythology, conferring some of the epicness of those histories on these. The mini plotline with Mars was contradictory and a bit slapdash. I liked the metaphor of Genocide's creation, and the plot twist about her origins, but it all came out of nowhere.
Mood: calm
Music: Traveller - Baaba Maal