Superheroes, brutal murders, Mexican maps and more: books read (#SFWApro)

BLACKSKYY: The Lady in Black Book One by Janet Stevens Cook is a black superhero novel in which protagonist Sandy is a wealthy, beautiful martial artist and ex-spy who as the Lady in Black compensates for her tragic childhood by cracking down on those who abuse or kill children. Unfortunately the premise got lost in the mundane stuff, such as feuding with a woman at work sleeping her way to the top, and the endless backstories for so many characters (that just stops the main narrative dead). As a superhero fan I found this interesting, but not entertaining.

KITTY GENOVESE: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime That Changed America by Kevin Cook (all rights to cover remain with current holder) looks at the legendary murder that became the symbol of big-city alienation (it’s a big influence on Rorschach in Watchmen) after the New York Times reported that thirty-eight people in Genovese’s building had watched for half an hour as she was attacked repeatedly and finally killed. The thrust of the book is the life of Italian-American lesbian Genovese and of Winston Mosely, the serial rapist who murdered her, mixed with a lot of world-building showing Life in the Sixties (which normally I’d find padding, but I was okay with it here). However Cook also shows that the NYT, as they say, printed the legend — only a few of the 38 were actually eyewitnesses, the majority probably didn’t see enough to realize Genovese’s plight and one elderly woman went out and held Genovese as she died. Good.

As part of my research for Oh the Places You’ll Go! I read CARTOGRAPHIC MEXICO: A History of State Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes by Raymond B. Craib. The book looks at Mexico’s post-indepenence effort to create definitive national maps, both to establish it as a real nation (so the early maps tried to establish continuity with indigenous inhabitants) and to resolve the countless local questions of land ownership, water rights and province and village boundaries. All of which sounded great in theory but much tougher in practice, as local disputes over names, borders, history and beliefs about ownership clashed with the supposedly rational, scientific approach of the mapmakers (reminding me of similar discussion in Drawing the Line). Specialized but good.

The graphic novel ROSWELL, TEXAS by L. Neil Smith and multiple collaborators takes us to alt.1947 in an independent Republic of Texas as President Lindbergh sends a trio of Texas Rangers to get to a recently crashed spaceship before rival hunters (such as the USA’s T.E. Lawrence and Elliott Ness) can seize the tech. While I enjoy alt.histories that get a little bit crazy in how things shake out, this is an exception — it’s just flinging random names around, plus in-jokes (grunt Gene Roddenberry contemplates a trip to the stars!) and never gave me the feel of a credible timeline (or for that matter a plot).

MULTIPLE WARHEADS by Brandon Graham was another graphic-novel misfire for me: the goofy design (in a good way) and the equally goofy future world (singing cigarettes! Narwhal brain smuggling!) make me want to like this but like the graphic novel above doesn’t have enough of a storyline to hold it together.

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Filed under Comics, Reading

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