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A Reciprocal Love Affair With Books

Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.

Daredevil vol. 7: Hardcore by Bendis & Maleev

Daredevil, Vol. 7: Hardcore - Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis

Yes, another five stars. I'm not even pretending to be unbiased here, LOL! I love this comic, it is my favorite comic--or, I should say, the comic of my favorite incarnation of my favorite superhero. It's not perfect, and despite featuring fights with Typhoid Mary, Bullseye AND Wilson Fisk himself (as well as Matt being set on fire), this volume is only sort of middling. All action, and while it has some great interactions with specifically Jessica Jones, and some really good stuff between Matt and Milla, and while it ends with a huge, game changing bang, the whole thing actually feels like filler.

Reading progress update: I've read 60%.

Daredevil, Vol. 6: Lowlife - Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis

I love the Marvel Knights imprint. For a long time, it was all I wanted to read, and certainly some of my all-time favorites, like this and Ennis' Punisher, were published as Marvel Knights. The quality just... shone above the rest at the time.


Also, this is where the story really kicks in. Matt meets Milla, things hot up a bit, and the set-up for it all is basically over. Maleev's artwork is topnotch, too, with characters less in the shadows, more upfront.

Daredevil/Echo: Vision Quest by David W. Mack

Daredevil / Echo: Vision Quest - David W. Mack

It took me years to get my sister to read this comic, even though I knew she'd love it, even though it was one of my favorites. I talked it up, I tried to tell her that it illustrated everything that she'd told me about being Deaf, does it accurately and beautifully.. She doesn't love the medium of comics, so it took some convincing, but she was shocked when she finally picked it up. She saw exactly what I was trying, inadequately, to tell her.


There are two levels on which this works, and the first, in my opinion, typifies the kinds of characters the Daredevil title has always been drawn to, or vice versa. At the climax of this story about soul searching, Echo, aka Maya Lopez, Wilson Fisk's sort of adopted daughter, goes on the titular vision quest. She runs into Logan after four days of fasting and mediating.


Logan tells her a story about a man who feels as if he has two dogs inside of him fighting, one is trust and love and good instincts, the other is fear and anger, the dredges of our human instincts. When asked which dog wins, the man answers, the one I feed the most. It has a special significance to Maya, but to the larger Daredevil universe, it can be applied to almost every character who comes in and out of Matt's life, as well as Matt himself. As she considers this, the duality of nature and the struggle between it, she thinks also of superheroes, and how she patterned herself after them, wanted to be them, and tellingly, the two shown in that panel are Frank Castle and Elektra, two who have allowed death, hatred and negativity rule them. Matt is, naturally, the other side of this, and though Maya teeters between the two, by the end of the comic, she has her answers.


The artwork is astounding, and I've seen it called experimental in format, which betrays a misunderstanding, a basic misunderstanding, about disability. What people want is disability seen from the perspective of an ablebodied person, streamlined and formatted for them. But the art in these issues matches the text and illustrates perfectly Maya's thoughts and the way she sees the world. In Mack's artwork, colors do make a sound, the visuals speak for themselves.


It's interesting to note that Mack at the time often used as subject matter disability or neurodivergence, and the comic as a whole at the time was more interested in exploring disability, not just Matt's.


A quietly touching story told with absolute originality.

Reading progress update: I've read 198 out of 432 pages.

A Court of Thorns and Roses - Sarah J. Maas

I really like it. I mean, I'm really enjoying it, which I expected because I just like SJM's ideas and writing. But, dudes, Feyre is so stupid. She is SO stupid. It doesn't keep me from liking her, though it does make me want to vigorously bang my head against a wall sometimes. For someone who had to singlehandedly keep her family alive, she has absolutely no survival instincts whatsoever.

Han Solo by Marjorie M. Liu and Mark Brooks

Star Wars: Han Solo (Star Wars (Marvel)) - Marjorie M. Liu, Mark Brooks

Surprisingly strong, touching story. Having been in the minority and disliked the Princess Leia solo title, I'd been reluctant to pick this one up, but I was pleasantly surprised in that it remained most in character of anything I've seen in the comics of the Big Three, the trio. It's my biggest complaint about the new EU canon, that the characters are so inconsistent, and can play up to every stereotype of them that's been floating around for forty years at once, or back and forth. So the fact that Han seemed pitch-perfect was the best thing about this.


The story's inconsequential really, though it elicited some emotion, and that surprised too. But the older I get, the more I find myself joining in the chorus of EU detractors with DID THIS NEED TO BE TOLD. Does this add anything? We see the point, in the movies, when Han decides that the Rebellion and his new friends are worth risking everything for, and that's at the end of ANH when he comes back to save Luke. It's not a bad story to tell in between ANH and ESB, but it's unnecessary.


Still a fun read, and a quick one.

Daredevil: Collection 1 by Brian Michael Bendis

— feeling love
Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection Book 1 - Alex Maleev, Brian Michael Bendis

My favorite comic of all time, and the comic that made Daredevil my favorite superhero. What impresses most is how deftly Bendis handles character, and the balance of the inherent darkness of the story (and the darkness that has been a staple of the comic since Frank Miller) and the simple goodness of the character Matt Murdock as he struggles to deal with the reveal of his secret identity (again.)


The art is, frankly, mind blowing, both from David Mack and Alex Maleev, though that last story, dear God, does the art for the last story let the whole thing down and illustrates that Maleev had just as much to do with setting the tone for this run as Bendis did.


Just beautifully done. Holds up over time, especially with the Netflix show now running; you realize how much of it they took from this era/run of the comic.

Dead Man's Song (Pine Deep #2) by Jonathan Maberry

Dead Man's Song (A Pine Deep Novel) - Jonathan Maberry

Whoa. What is a solid three-to-four star book starts to kick it up at the halfway mark and then hits hyperdrive in the explosive last act. I read the first book for Halloween bingo last year, and while I enjoyed it a lot, it wasn't a series that I felt that I HAD to return to immediately. I happened to catch a copy of the second book during a sale on BootOulet, and sort of casually picked it up, and while I liked the first half of the book, though that it was slow, that perhaps was a little too much bridging between books. I had started to doubt anything would happen in this book.


How wrong I was. I loved the addition of Newt, and I liked that Val feels more like a real character (though still venerated by men and women alike to a degree I feel distasteful.) And it breaks with modern convention of trilogy format by not ending with any more of a cliffhanger than the first did, and actually being somewhat... I don't want to say upbeat, but, yeah, compared to other 'part two's? Yeah.


I am now much more anxious to finish the trilogy. Hoping to get that done this Halloween!

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert

Marvel 1602 - Neil Gaiman, Richard Ianove, Andy Kubert

I'm not the greatest fan of Gaiman's work. That's not shade, I have a huge amount of respect for him, and I can read his writing and appreciate how much talent he naturally has, as well as a keen tongue and glib, poetic but economical prose. I just don't gel with his sensibility about 80% of the time. But this is one of my favorite comics of all time. It handles both history and fantasy effortlessly, and as a fan of the characters featured; it's extremely fun to see how and when they'll appear, and some are vague enough that it's a pleasant little surprise when they do.


It's a fun premise: What if superheroes, specifically the Marvel 616 universe, appeared four hundred years too early. It's also a seemingly simply premise, and could have easily been botched, but this is smart, it has a know;ledge both of history and of the Marvel characters and universe. And, for once, I feel like the art matches the brilliance of the idea.

Reading progress update: I've read 248 out of 248 pages.

Marvel 1602 - Neil Gaiman, Richard Ianove, Andy Kubert

How have I read this three times and still didn't remember anything that happened in the last two issues? Me: Oh! Thor's in this! Also Me: Jean, you've read this already, how did you not remember that?

Reading progress update: I've read 186 out of 466 pages.

Dead Man's Song (A Pine Deep Novel) - Jonathan Maberry

So I read the first Pine Deep book Ghost Road Blues (<---- my review) for Halloween bingo, and have been looking forward to picking up the second since, though this was a bit sooner than I'd expected, mostly because I found it on BookOutlet during a sale, LOL! And it's... fine? It feels like the worst kind of middle chapter of anything, where it's just a lot of in between stuff, finishing stuff up from the first book and setting it up for the third. But I like the characters. And keep hoping that something's gonna happen. Anything. Please?

Review: The Continent by Keira Drake (first ARC)

The Continent - Keira Drake

For those unaware of the controversy surrounding this book: This advanced reading copy was released late last year, and was immediately picked apart by reviewers that got their hands on it as being extremely racist and horribly insensitive. It blew up enough that Harlequin Teen has postponed the release of the finished novel, and Drake is (allegedly) reworking it. There's a question surrounding it if it can be "fixed," and I'll be throwing in my own two cents on the subject.


I got my hands on it more or less by coincidence: my sister went to the downtown branch of the library for a program and it happened to just be sitting there. Because she was aware of the controversy, she grabbed it for me. This was not a hate read for me. I don't hate read, I don't have the time or energy. But I also found it hugely important to expose myself to the content myself. I'm not going to be the last word on any of this; many people more informed and with more of a personal stake have written about it in depth, from Native American scholar Debbie Reese to author Zoraida Cordova.


First off: the book itself. It's impossible to separate it from its ideas and prejudices. It shocked me that almost every page was imbued with casual-to-very active racism, and some sexism and ableism, too! If it could be, the story-the story would simply be fine. The characters would be okay. If you read lots of YA, or even just a sampling, you've read this stuff before, especially with what passes for fantasy nowadays--meaning bland, simplistic and unimaginatively derivative. I hate the term world building now, because I see it being so overused in incorrect ways, but this... this ranges from boring and illogical to, as I will discuss, offensive.


The peaceful, superior Spirians are made up of four nations: East, west, North and South. We're told that the Southerners have "olive skin" (I cannot even go into why I dislike so much that recent YA authors have picked this up; they don't know what it is and use it as a catch all for white person who can be vaguely POC but is still white) and the Westerners have dark skin but also blue eyes so pale they could be white. First off, ew, how is that attractive and not actually frightening, but secondly can we please stop with the dark, dark skin with some typically white feature that makes them "remarkable?" And the first and most prominent Westerner throughout the novel is a servant, a groundskeeper at their fancy resort. I wanted to put that out, since people seem to think their inclusion somehow negates the rest of the racism in the book.


Only the most affluent Spirians tour the Continent, and sixteen year-old Vaela Sun's family is lucky enough to ensure her a visit for her birthday. We see the Spirians as spoiled and finicky, but generally good-natured, their fussy eccentricities smiled and laughed at.


When we get to the Continent, or rather above it, as they use "heli-planes" to conduct the actual tour (and here I thought that they, at one point, told me that it would break some sort of treaty if they set foot on the land, but it's never brought up again so... ???) I got a real Victorian "the Dark Continent" sort of vibe from all of this, the way we viewed Africa a hundred years ago as unexplored and wild. Vaela is an apprentice mapmaker, so her interest is almost strictly academic. They witness the horrendous violence of war--or, more accurately, of the Topi--and are disheartned and sickened that there can still be such savagery in the world.


Yes. The Topi. It's literally only one letter off of the Hopi, and make no mistake, despite what Drake has said later in her defense about them being based on the Uruk-hai on Tolkien's LOTR or, let's face it, Peter Jackson's. What the author describes of the Topi village is just Hopi cliff dwellings, their colors and "war paint" evocative directly of those people. And she uses every Native American stereotype perpetuated for hundreds of years! Ignoring the fact that Tolkien shouldn't be anyone's defense towards diversity, the Topi are described time and time again as only men, but as shown in the book, by example, we see brutal, animalistic, drunken non-humans who kill their enemies in the most viscous ways possible seemingly simply for the pleasure of it.


The people on the other side of the war are the Aven'ei. Despite the name just being nonsensical, these are basically the Japanese. With names like Keiji, Yuki, Takashi, Noro, it's not even disguised; these are not Japanese-inspired names, these are LITERALLY JAPANESE NAMES. And while we clearly see them as more human as the Topi, we do so by Western/"Spirian" standards. Save us from the fantasy world building that takes a real world people and simply takes what the author was interested in/what she knows from popular culture, and then fills in the rest with our western white standards. Their homes are very Western with tables and chairs and loveseats, they've adopted whatever common language the Spirians speak despite the fact that they have absolutely no contact with the Spirians (and, yes, I am aware that the author most likely did this to make communication between Noro and Vaela easier, but it's lazy and that's part of the larger problem), and they're all inexplicably over six feet tall.


So, Vaela lives with the Aven'ei after being rescued by Noro from Topi who attempt to rape her, settles into a life with them. Of course SHE'S not prejudiced and is SHOCKED that other people might be judging her simply on her differing appearance and that beautiful, shimmering golden hair which no one can stop themselves from commenting on. Because Spirians can't be racist! Even when we see them at the end of the book, when Vaela is begging them to intervene in the war, they're exposed as bureaucratic and stagnant, not at all racist!


And, yes, Vaela's solution to build a wall along the Topi/Aven'ai border is more than unfortunate. And I have to think about an editor, accepting that this was written before Trump's plan was unveiled, not going back to the text and thinking, Hmm... maybe we should change that a little?


Vaela impassioned plea on the Aven'ei behalf causes the Westerners to break from the Spire and show up in a fleet of their heli-planes to scare and chastise the tribal people into doing what they say. This is a actual line from the book:


"It is done now," I say, gesturing up at the heli-planes. "The West has come to ensure peace. You need never wear the shadow of the itzatsune again."


Rubs temples. But no, this isn't about white savioring at all.


So, what would generally be a mediocre book with nothing exceptional about it becomes a sort of racist opus. Can it be fixed? It would not only require a rewrite so massive, it'd essentially be a different book, but a true understanding on the behalf of the author, which she's proved she does not yet have.

Rereading Gaiman's 1602

Marvel 1602 - Neil Gaiman, Richard Ianove, Andy Kubert

So, I picked this up alongside The Continent as a "comfort read" and I still love it, though The Continent has made me particularly sensitive right now and everything with "Rojhaz" feels especially cringey. Still one of my favorite Daredevil stories... Matt, you are and always will be my favorite superhero.

Reading progress update: I've read 268 out of 312 pages.

The Continent - Keira Drake

Aaaand there it is, the great solution of our White Savior: Build a wall along the border to keep those rapist savages out.


‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Tribeca Panel Turns ‘Bizarre’ as Cast Downplays Feminist Themes

*Peeks head in door*

Well, hey there, BL! What's good? :) It's been a truly terrible start of the year for me, with internet issues (ongoing) and health issues, both mental and physical (sadly also still ongoing), but hopefully with things beginning to look up. I'm reading again, at least!

Ohhh, look what I've gotten my grubby hands on...

The Continent - Keira Drake

Cracks knuckles...


First twenty pages... OH HEY Y'ALL! We can go home, these here rich white folk solved war! But apparently not racism. *sips wine slowly*