Books

LUD-IN-THE-MIST by Hope Mirlees is a cult classic set in the eponymous town on the borders of fairyland where the petit bourgeoisie governors have done their best to become All Business and Seriousness in order to repress the seductive appeal of their neighbors. However, the smuggling in of fairy fruit is creating problems that cannot be swept under the rug … Beautifully written in the Lord Dunsany style (I suspect King of Elfland’s Daughter is a big influence) and a good protagonist in the not-as-stuffy-as-he-looks mayor, but this falls annoyingly flat on the resolution, as if Mirrlees couldn’t quite conceive of how to fit faerie into her prosaic community. Good, but I’m not joining the cult.
THE LAW OF SUPER-HEROES by James Daily and Ryan Davidson works better than I expected in discussing such topics as whether mutant registration in the Marvel Universe is legal (possibly), whether the Joker is legally not guilty by reason of insanity (no), the Twelfth Amendment in the DC Universe (a throwaway line in one Wally West story reveals it covers super-hero registration) and such topics as the rights of ETs, the rules for citizens arrests and the practical problems of patenting super-hero tech. A bit basic in spots, but overall very interesting (and the argument most immortals wouldn’t be multimillionaires will come in handy for something I’m working on). A fun read.
LUSITANIA: An Epic Tragedy by Diana Preston looks at the once-infamous tragedy in which a German Great War U-boat torpedoed a British liner carrying American passengers, thereby generating a massive controversy about the ethics of war, the rights of neutrals and whether the liner was really packing heat and carrying soldiers (Preston shows conclusively it wasn’t). The book follows both the liner and the U-boat to their fateful meeting, along with the subsequent propaganda war; while not the trigger for America entering the war, it did prove a strong rallying cry (some enlistment posters simply showed a drowning woman clutching a baby). A good job.
Back in the 1970s, Steve Englehart wrote a series of Captain America stories pondering the role of an American symbol when America itself isn’t perfect. Jason Aaron’s story for ULTIMATE CAPTAIN AMERICA seems to be trying for the same thing, but never comes close. The story of the “Ultimates” universe (a parallel world to the main Marvel Universe) Steve Rogers encounters a crazy super-soldier gone rogue after the Vietnam War feels like a by-the-numbers action film with debating points from a cable-news shoutfest thrown in (“America overthrows democratic governments!” “Yes, but it’s still a great nation!”). And it’s depressing we’re still getting Crazy Vietnam Veterans as bad guys. Thumbs way down.
A few years back, Hulk’s old foe Thunderbolt Ross transformed himself into Red Hulk to settle things. In RED HULK: Planet Red Hulk we get to see him battle Modok, Zzax and a former military protege who doesn’t know Red Hulk’s real identity; there’s also a space-travel two-parter that riffs on a Greenskin space adventure of a couple of years earlier. Nothing really bad, but nothing memorable either.
FLEX MENTALLO, MUSCLE MAN OF MYSTERY debuted as a Charles Atlas super-hero parody in Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol series. This follow-up spends far too much time listening to a whiny druggy’s insane monologues while Flex investigates a group of terrorists running around throwing fake bombs. Morrison can be very good when he’s metafictional, but he can also be frickin’ self-indulgent—and this falls squarely in the latter camp. On the whole, this wasn’t a good week for comic-book trade paperbacks.

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Filed under Comics, Reading

2 responses to “Books

  1. Pingback: What are you, a theater critic or something? | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: The Joker Is Wild, Maybe Too Wild (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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