Victorian cynicism, story tellers, privacy and the JLA: books and graphic novels (#SFWApro)

THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS And Other Tales by Richard Garnett is a late 19th century collection of shorts reminiscent in its cynicism of James Branch Cabell, though never quite as cold: a freed Prometheus passes himself off as a martyred saint (“Why yes, the eagle that came to attend to me was sent from heaven,”), a prophet interprets the holy books (“A woman is worth one ninth of a man, so clearly ‘take one wife’ requires taking nine women!”) and a group of rebellious cardinals back off when they learn the Pope has a cloven hoof (“If we’d realized who you were—well, of course, we have much more respect for you now.”). Delightful

THE MABINOGION is a collection of Welsh legends gathered by Lady Charlotte Guest in the 19th century (though I read a later translation of the tales, by Jeffrey Gantz. The 11 stories include the four branches adapted by Evangeline Walton; How Culhwch Won Olwen an Arthurian tale that seems to embody a completely different set of traditions than the rest of the mythos; some Arthurian tales possibly adapted from Chretien de Troyes; and the satirical Dream of Rhonabwy. If you’re into Celtic stuff, this is definitely worth reading (I’ve read it a couple of times before), and it gave me some good ideas for Southern Discomfort to boot.

THE 100 NIGHTS OF HERO by Isabel Greenberg is an Arabian Nights variation in which a woman and her lesbian lover stave off a lecher’s attention by spinning stories so intriguing he just has to postpone getting physical until the tale finishes. Familiar tales but adjusted enough (and with a running feminist theme) that they worked for me. I gather this is part of a series (which probably explains the early stuff with gods that doesn’t actually play into the main story) but it worked fine as a standalone. Cover by Greenberg, all rights to current holder.

THE PRIVATE EYE by Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin is set in a world where a massive Internet hack has exposed everyone’s every digital secret; years later the Internet is shut down, privacy is near sacred (people wear masks to minimize the fallout from any embarrassing stuff they do) and everyone relies  on old-fashioned means of entertainment such as TV and books. An investigator whose client turned up dead discovers a scheme to resurrect the Internet and finds himself dodging both the “Fourth Estate” security police and the criminals responsible. Interesting in premise, less in execution (and heavy-handed when it gets to the Get Off The Internet And Go Outside theme).

JUSTICE LEAGUE: Injustice League by Geoff Johns and various artists has a)Luthor, having saved the world in a previous TPB, pushing his way onto the League; b)the JLA agreeing on the principle of keeping your enemies close; c)the evil alt.Green Lantern Power Ring’s ring falling into the hands of a reluctant wielder; and d)a virus Luthor created brings death to metahumans and empowers (then kills) ordinary people. This has some good character bits, but I really dislike Johns’ handling of the Doom Patrol and the second adventure is only adequate (it reads like a reworking of the gene bomb plot from the old Invasion crossover event). So a mixed bag.

SWEET TOOTH: Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire is part of a series about a human/stag hybrid with a soft spot for candy. In this one, he’s captive in a sinister research center while the guy who dumped him there struggles to fix that mistake. I gather this has some devoted fans, but all I see are familiar tropes recycled to very little effect.

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