From Armistice Day to Bitch Planet, here’s this week’s reading

PEACE AT LAST: A Portrait of Armistice Day, 11 November 1918 by Guy Cuthbertson follows the day from the early morning as hostilities wound down (though some people on the front still died) to the 11 AM armistice proclamation through the varied reactions including prayer, joy, grief for the loss, relief at going home, worries about life on the home front, dismay at the thought of becoming a civilian again, and excitement at such trivial things as church bells ringing and cities lighting up at night (both banned during the war to avoid giving Zeppelins targets). The jubilation the War to End All Wars had actually ended produced countless spontaneous parades and celebrations like the one below on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, even as some church and government leaders fretted the day should be more solemn (they got their wish: a few years later, Armistice Day would become a much more brooding event). A little monotonous at times (one celebration, followed by another, followed by another) but more than interesting enough to be worth the reading. And lord, it’s depressing to realize we’ll never see anything like this again — I think our culture’s just accepted perpetual war or imminent war is the way of things.

FRAY: Book Two of the Unraveled Kingdom by Rowenna Miller hooked me with its set-up: it’s an alt.France in the years before the revolution, with protagonist Sophie a petite bourgeois struggling to navigate between her brother’s revolutionary activities and her fiance, a prince trying to push for more gradual reform. Unfortunately this didn’t work for me at all: the 100 pages I finished were competently written but despite the tense situation there’s no sense of tension in the storyline — in fact if I hadn’t read the back of the book, I wouldn’t have any idea what the storyline was. And the magic could easily have been cut without affecting the plot, and that’s always a negative with me. So I gave up on it.

JAILBAIT: The Politics of Statutory Rape Laws in the United States by Carolyn Cocca looks at the various pressure groups and political debates fighting around the topic in the 20th century and how they played out in legal changes in Georgia, New Jersey and California. While a lot of this is too dry for me, it’s interesting to see what the laws represent to various constituencies, such as a way to police teen sex, to protect adolescent girls from predators, to stop teen pregnancy, to protect young boys from male pedophiles (an easier justification for protecting boys than the possibility of female predators) and the similar mix of objections (girls will seduce men then cry rape; two kids the same age could be busted; if older boys face charges, will their girlfriends even report them?).

Most of the reviews of the current Immortal Hulk series paint it as a horror comic taking Jade-Jaws in new directions, IMMORTAL HULK: Hulk in Hell by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett felt like a throwback to Peter David’s run on the title. We have a dominant, destructive Hulk personality, Bruce’s deranged Dad serving as an agent of Hell, the netherworld rising (that doesn’t make it horror — superheroes deal with that crap on a regular basis) … But David’s run is one of the best Hulk eras, so the comparison doesn’t mean the book is flawed, just that it doesn’t appear to be breaking new ground. I’m okay with that, though the text ruminations on the nature of evil got old fast.

BITCH PLANET: President Bitch by Kelly Sue deConnick and Valentine De Landro has a less focused plotline than V1, Extraordinary Machine, nor does it really follow the plot threads. Instead we have the women prisoners’ schemes to survive entangled with a grieving father and a familiar face turning up in one of the cells, while back on Earth the revolution starts and the patriarchs prove perfectly capable of backstabbing each other. Good, but I think an extra volume in between the two focusing on the prisoners’ plight would have been good.

#SFWApro. Photo is public domain from the Chicago Daily News via Wikimedia Commons.

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