Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
Okay, I've called something from around 20%, that the mother was the one who pledged Sailor to the wytches, just on a whim, but the more and more I read, the more I believe that that small bit of intuition is actually 100% accurate!
So, I'm actually 160 pages into Jonathan Maberry's Bad Moon Rising, but I just wasn't feeling excited about picking it up, and with being sick (again), I was looking for something that'd hold more interest. My hold just happened to come in from the library and despite reviews of IT WAS FIIIIINE from most of my friends, I picked it up for the funsies.
I'm attempting to catch up, but my internet's been dropping in and out with alarming frequency since Sunday, sighs. We didn't lose power, which is good news, and also didn't get a tree through our apartment, like our neighbors did, but the whole city's sort of a shambles, and I recognize I'm extremely lucky that that's my only problem right now. xP
Priest is one of my favorites. Two of her books, as a matter of fact, sit on my favorites shelf. That said, I probably went easier on this book because of that when, in my opinion, the book completely falls apart in the last act.
Well, to be fair, it doesn't fall apart so much as it stagnates. Let's start at the beginning: I had high hopes. The first night I read this, it actually frightened me enough that I questioned my own sanity in navigating my apartment in the darkness, thinking about what could be in it waiting for me. That's what the build-up does, it sets a wonderful atmosphere for the Withrow house that anyone who has lived in a big, dark home with a penchant for making unexplained noises will recognize.
The characters are what really hooked me. I loved Dahlia. I usually love Priest's characters, but it was nice to see one of the female characters come to the forefront without having to have a male character observe or comment. Her relationship with her cousin Bobby, and his son, her other cousin Gabe, made for a really interesting dynamic, and it promised something the book never delivered, and that's a look at how unsettling and sad family relations can be.
That was my read on the book, at first. Even the title of the book seemed to be pointing to this, that it would lead to being an examination of familial dysfunction, in the past and the present. And if it had played out like that, I would have loved this book. But it turns into something stale instead. The book gives you information a hundred pages before it presents it to you formally and still expects you to be surprised. Like, for instance, why should it come as some huge revelation that Abigail was formally locked in a sanitarium and given intense hyrdrotherapy when Dahlia not only had the experience of being shocked under the shower stream in the bathroom, but even shared Abigail's memories of the tubs with the straps on them, etc.?
I also liked that the ghosts seemed to be reaching out to Gabe at first. It reminded me of those 80's horror movies, like Poltergeist, and also let the other characters interact and grow without the focus of the ghost story on them. Bobby and Dahlia's best scene comes where Gabe disappears for a moment or two to commune with a ghost.
The problem with the reveal is that it actually means nothing. Revealing what happened in the past (which was, by the way, already revealed in bits and pieces, and yet we're still supposed to be in awe, I guess, of seeing it firsthand) has absolutely no impact, it's not going to break a curse or let the ghost's spirit go free. There's literally no reason for it to happen. And the magic ghost time traveling flashback is something used it dumb, cheap horror movie for people who are not creative enough to find other ways to unveil the story.
The house, we're told, is angry, but the book is actually so free from anger, that I never got that from it whatsoever. Dahlia just seems tired and a little desperate, and most of all sad. The house? Mildly peevish. The relationship that should exist between Dahlia and the house just isn't there, especially with her sympathy having fled her early on. It's the biggest misfire, and what the book relies on in the last act.
And worst of all? we have a Blumhouse-type jumpscare at the end of the book. Do you know what it's like reading the silly tropes that bad movies rely on? Bad. It's bad. As annoying as a jumpscare and fade to black might be in a movie, it works, more or less, in a visual medium. But it left me with no end of questions in the book, and also left me so dissatisfied that she ever thought this was a clever way to end the story.
It's too subtle to be The Shining, and not subtle enough to be something like The Haunting of Hill House. It exists in a strange sort of limbo in between. Where a lot of mediocre horror tales do, I'm sad to say.
And just waiting to see how much/little we'll be affected by Irma!
I'm not sure how I feel about how this has turned. I was really invested in the mystery of what had happened in the house, and with the characters in the present day. It was subtle, and it was a slow burn. And then BOOM! Now we have... I want to say The Shining, but The Shining did what I said above better and more subtly. We'll see. I'm only a little over halfway through the book. It just means the difference between a four and a five star rating.
Okay, you know what? We're gonna talk about what I feel is the most insidious trope involving female characters in writing, and specifically in genre writing. Is it the act of "fridging," the death of a female character in order to torment and further develop the character of their male love interest? Well, that's pretty close, and something that Daredevil in particular is rife with. But that's a trope that's called out, often--so often, as a matter of fact, that it's amazing that writers still fall back on it.
No, I'm talking about the Mary Sue. Oh, you say, but Mary Sues are talked about all the time! Yeah, I'm not talking about female-written and/or created power fantasies. I'm talking about the male created Mary Sue, the sexual fantasy of their perfect woman.
And this brings me to Dakota North in this run of the comic. Yeah, her name is Dakota North. And you know what else? She's a former world famous runway supermodel turned tough talking New York P.I. who perfectly matches Matt's wit, and calls him out on his shit in the most awesome way ever!
And I just facepalmed writing that, let alone reading it in the comic. It's obnoxious, and as someone who always tries to see the absolute best in every female character, it's possibly the most alienating thing a writer can do. Because it's not for me. At all.
And it makes me feel worse to see Milla, a character who started out as independent and funny, sweet, interesting, and a match for Matt in the Bendis run, so obviously demeaned and discarded because the writer was in no way interested in sexually. And there's a whiff of ableism to the whole thing, to the entire Brubaker run, frankly, to make the blind woman without the superpowers helpless and whimpering, and then destroy her mentally because Brubaker just doesn't want her around.
Also, as awesome as it should have been to see Matt called out on his selfish behavior towards Milla, the characters all do it in a way that doesn't at all defend or benefit Milla, and that most contemptible of phrases is uttered, by your friend and mine Dakota, "Get over it."
Yeah, Matt needs to get over himself a little. But the writing is too weak to do it in any sort of satisfying way. I'm rereading Waid's run at the moment, and there's one moment in it where Matt seems more genuinely affected by Milla's situation than he ever does in Brubaker's entire run, during the storyline itself.
Okay, so I was going to make this another huge, rage-filled review, complete with panels as examples, etc. And that was just too draining. So I'm just going to go over the basics with this: Milla, under the influence of Mr. Fear's gas, which made Milla insane and also somehow made him into the Purple Man instead of a second-rate Marvel version of Scarecrow from the Batman comics, sorta kinda tried to kill someone she felt was threatening her relationship with Matt, and she's going to be charged with murder, because everyone on the subway platform apparently heard her yell DIE BITCH but neglected to note that she was a blind woman flailing at the air, and that it was actually Lily, trying to avoid Milla, who inadvertently knocked the man in front of the train. Brubaker both wants you to forget that Milla wasn't directly responsible, but also make certain that she wasn't, which is highly confusing.
The panels of Milla in the hospital are painful. Foggy and Matt talk about her in third person right in front of her, and when she loudly objects, they do that, SHHH YOU'RE JUST HYSTERICAL sort of thing that infuriates women about men. Honestly, if I showed these to women who had no idea about the situation, they'd guess that a husband was trying to gaslight his wife, it's that bad.
Well, Matt's a lawyer, so he gets her released into his custody, and she doesn't do anything but try to hurt herself. But, guess what? Lily shows up again, and her pheromone comic book nonsense suddenly makes Milla lash out against a totally innocent woman, her nurse, which is not at all indicative of what we've seen of her behavior to this point. And, as with all Daredevil trauma and tragedy, Matt makes everything about himself as his wife is stuck in Hell in her own mind.
And then the crowning jewel of the nastiness of this comic is the panels at the end, to show that Mr. Fear has truly won, that he is basically running the prison where he's been put away, including one where he has a female guard in a sexy Halloween costume parody of a cop's uniform, spread seductively on his bed because, again, he's made himself the Purple Man and she's scrambling to throw herself at him. So we end with rape, implied consistent.
And Ed Brubaker is trash.
Had to look everywhere to find my old icon since my laptop crashed, but I was determined. It's one of my favorite images. Happy spoopy reading, my friends!
Whoo, my first Halloween bingo read! And it's engaging right off the bat, which I've come to expect from Priest by now (her Fathom, filled my scary women square last year, heh!) You know, I adore her series, and the campier aspects of some of her "out there" books, but I actually really love these sorts of standalones, like Fathom. Also pleased that she's finally managed to write a book with a female protagonist from said protagonist's point of view, and not from the POV of the men around her. Was always a slight problem.
And it's SO PRETTY! I've already got a few books picked out in my head, though it's not a definite TBR just yet:
Diverse voices - Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
Chilling children - Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye
Terrifying women - Family Plot by Cherie Priest
The Dead will Walk - The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey or Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry
Terror in a small town - Bad Moon Rising by Jonathan Maberry. I'm not gonna double dip, so this is dependent on whether or not I end up reading Dead of Night, LOL
80's horror - I'm looking at Christine by Stephen King
Modern masters of horror - Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Darkest London - Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I've been wanting to read, but this is starting to get extremely ambitious with how slowly I read, LOL! So we'll see.
Instant favorite. It's such a shame this run didn't last longer than it did, because I enjoyed absolutely every moment of it. It's almost mind-boggling to see Jen go through life as a professional, to see her humor and her friendships, most prominently with Patsy Walker aka Hellcat, without so much as a male regular in the series, let alone a love interest. Just putting that out there. I was pleased.
Oh, but Matt puts in another appearance, and Soule proved to me that he absolutely "got" the character, and his and Jen's interactions are priceless. Along with, mild spoilers, good ole Steve Rogers, who Matt and Jen find themselves on opposing sides of a civil suit against.
The conclusion of the blue file story was... okay, but the Cap story actually felt like the main event, and that was sort of anti-climactic afterwards, but it was well handled.
Quality stuff, and proof that superheroics and, ya know, punching stuff, doesn't have to be the main focus of a superhero comic to make it fun and interesting. Loved it!
I seem to be in the minority here, but this is what I was waiting for, the greatness that I saw in this comic from the beginning, the characterization of Matt that I knew Soule was capable of.
Focusing finally solely on Matt this time 'round, Soule takes him back to the character that I've always loved, takes him back to darkness and religion, and his complicated relationship with both. Also, kinda pointing out what an asshole he'd become in the Waid comics, which... I honestly gotta love.
This is also the reveal of how and why the world forgot his identity, and his role in it. What happened between him and Kirsten, him and Foggy. And, again, in the minority, but I thought it was wonderfully handled (though, I gotta admit, I'm gonna disagree with the priest here that he protected Kirsten by not revealing himself to her; he protected his own self, as he tends to do, and that's in-character, but the comic telling me it was something noble or justified made me side-eye it just a bit.)
There's a two page panel that I adored, that I think perfectly sums Matt's struggles in one image without words: Matt is being carried on his back, a Christ-like figure, with the worst, most evil influences in his life at the front, Kingpin right beside him with Foggy trying to reach over Fisk's shoulder to get to Matt, and Milla behind him with her hand on his shoulder. Elektra at the bottom of the panel, reaching for him, his father and mother at his head, Jack muscling past Bullseye, Karen behind him. The edges fade into darkness, with every character that's crossed his path, for good or for evil, crowding around him. This was modern Daredevil at its finest.
Not terrible, but not terribly memorable either, the main problem being the fact that the stories told slot into and in between existing stories. So, it's supposed to be character-driven, but the bulk of it being about Aneka and Ayo going in circles and circles with the beginning of their relationship is tiring, and the characterization seems passionless. The last two issues, with Coates as consultant, play better, especially the White Tiger one, specifically because it has action in it, and is a self-contained story.
Considering the immense talent involved, and the fact that I was extremely excited for Aneka and Ayo's relationship, a disappointment.
Like I did with Hell to Pay vol. 1, but I gotta say, it's sort of killing my soul. I meant to go allll the way through the 2000's Daredevil, but Brubaker is making me so furious, I have a feeling I might just have to skip a bit. And next up is Lady Bullseye. Ugh. I knew these kinda sucked at the time, but I don't remember how they didn't actually make me want to punch someone or something. Because they do.
EDIT: So, I just realized that the next volume is, in fact, not Lady Bullseye but Cruel and Unusual. Which... is just so appropriate.
So, it doesn't seem like a terrible book, and I was appreciating the "out-there" world building, but it felt clumsy, and I wasn't connecting with any of the characters. I might have, if I'd stuck with it, but I... just didn't want to, LOL! It wasn't very inspired or inspiring. And it didn't really have the feel that Swan Lake ought to, if that makes sense.