AN OFFER WE CAN’T REFUSE: The Mafia in the Mind of America by George de Stefano looks at the history of Italian-Americans and bias against them, particularly the stereotype that they’re all mobbed up (as opposed to a reality in which lots of ethnicities have been involved in organized crime). That in turn leads to a look at The Godfather and The Sopranos, which was ongoing at the time the book came out. While de Stefano dislikes the stereotype, he actually loves the Godfather films for how awash they are in Italian culture, and The Sopranos for updating the stereotypes (suburban gangsters who are conscious they’re not playing at the Corleone level). While sympathetic to the antidefamation groups that condemn Mafia fiction, de Stefano dismisses the arguments that Italian Americans get it worse than anyone else (“We’re not pulled over for driving while Italian.”) and accuses some of the critics of rejecting their roots (i.e., they’re upscale enough to be embarrassed at the Corleone’s Old World ways). Interesting; all rights to image remain with current holder.
ASTRO CITY: Reflections by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson is definitely not the book to start with as it is, as the title says, a reflection on the series history — a shout back to Samaritan’s first story, the return of the reformed supervillain Steeljack and an update on the First Family. Well done, and reflecting (ROFL) Busiek’s sense that as Astro City ages in real time, we’re now seeing the rise of a second generation as more of the old guard hang up their hats (as in an earlier volume Lovers’ Quarrel). As always, Astro City is a great place to visit.
FLASH: Rogues Reloaded by Joshua Williamson and Carmine di Giandomenico is a decent “Rebirth” collection (though once again, nothing seems terribly reborn about this) in which the Rogues attempt to pull off one big score, then quit. If stock, this was well executed (except for adding Heat Wave a tragic backstory ripped off HELLBOY’s Liz Sherman) but the last couple of issues involving Reverse-Flash were quite pointless.
OF MONSTERS AND MADNESS by Jessica Verday is a disappointing Y/A horror novel in which 19th century expat Annabel Lee reunites with her family in Philadelphia, falls for handsome poet Allan Poe but oh dear, his creepy brother Edgar keeps showing up … This generally fell flat (a shame — Annabel herself is a good character) but a big part of the problem is that borrowing from other 19th century horror instead of milking Poe’s own works more bugs me aesthetically.
BEHIND THE MOON by Madison Smartt Bell is a literary novel in which a teen skipping school winds up in a coma while ducking a gang rape and finds herself in a Pretentious Surreal Astral Sequence, only to have her mother find her in the same plane. Even allowing for my general lack of interest in literary fiction, I wasn’t impressed.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: Timeless by Bryan Hitch (who writes and co-draws) improves on Hitch’s first two Rebirth volumes, but it’s still not a winner: we have silly things like the JLA taking an issue to share their feelings in the middle of an imminent alien attack, then a better story arc involving a plot by an alien intelligence to erase Earth’s superhumans from history (because of them, after all, the entire reality of the universe has been rebooted several times). This is definitely not the JLA’s finest hour.