Early summer reads in brief

As you might gather from the sparcity of this blog this month, I’ve been busy. I’ve still been reading, but I’m very very behind on writing reviews, so here’s a few shorter thoughts on recent reads.

captain america

Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z,
books 1 and 2
by Rick Remender and John Romita Jr

This relatively short storyline is a great example of how comics – superhero comics, at that – can be a really good medium through which to explore unusual or difficult ideas. Cap is doing his thing for the Avengers when he is kidnapped by the evil Dr Zola and taken to Dimension Z, and while he soon escapes his captors it seems that Dimension Z will not give him up so easily. Over time he gets caught up in the ongoing war between Zola’s bioengineered army and the phrox, who look monstrous but are willing to give Cap a home. Which all sounds a bit robots fight monsters grr argh, but while this book is distinctly masculine, it’s also very thoughtful. In fact, my main reservation was that Cap was perhaps too brooding and thoughtful. By far the majority of the text is his thoughts and for several pages I wondered whether he was going to speak at all. But overall I enjoyed it and the take on questions surrounding, among other things, war, parenthood, love, loyalty and belonging.

“Adrenaline surging—enough to jolt a dead man to a waltz. Need the help—so long as I don’t pass out. Pain—the shattered left hand screaming at me—it has no business maintaining a grip on a B-52 in a dead drop. Thank the adrenaline…His howl—agony…a reminder of what happens to a million people if you fail—millions of screams.”

Published 2013 by Marvel.

Source: Borrowed from Tim, who bought them at Excelsior! comic shop, Bristol.

Tales from the Secret Annexe
by Anne Frank
translated from Dutch by Susan Massotty

It pains me, after rediscovering the talent of Anne Frank earlier this year, to conclude that this collection of her essays and short stories is so far below the standard of her diary that it should probably never have been published. There are signs of her writing ability, certainly, and I don’t doubt that if she had lived she would have produced a collection after the war that would have shone with greatness. But this isn’t it; these are the writings of a child and it shows. Even her moving essays about hope and charity suffer from youthful naivety. The first part of the collection is especially odd, as it is a series of alternative accounts of events that are also included in Anne’s diary – essentially discarded early drafts. The book isn’t entirely without merit: it’s perfectly readable, provides a little extra depth to the picture of Anne for anyone who has read her diary, and the foreword is actually the best summary I have read of the Frank family’s war-time experience.

“Everyone is born equal; we all come into the world helpless and innocent. We all breathe the same air…Riches, power and fame last for only a few short years. Why do we cling so desperately to these fleeting things? Why can’t those who have more than enough for their own needs give the rest to their fellow human beings?”

Verhaaltjes, en gebeurtenissen uit het Achterhuis published 1982 by Bert Bakker.
This edition published 2010 by Halban.

Source: I bought it at Anne Frank House, Amsterdam.

Sex Criminals volume 1: One Weird Trick
by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

It really tells how much I enjoyed the first volume of Hawkeye by Matt Fraction that I was eager to check out his other current project despite a title that didn’t seem entirely aimed at me. However, it turns out that this is another fun, well written and stylishly presented series. The premise is that librarian Suzie stops time whenever she has an orgasm, an ability she discovered in her teens and has quietly enjoyed since, while getting on with her otherwise normal life. Until she meets Jon, who not only shares her ability, but has ideas about what they could do with it. Her library is closing due to lack of money, they can stop time – it seems like robbing the bank will be an easy solution. But when is life ever easy? Although this comic is undeniably explicit and R-rated, it’s actually much less explicit than some Alan Moore stuff I’ve read and, importantly, far more honest about sex. As Suzie and Jon get to know each other we learn about their teen years, discovering masturbation and other sexual acts, which is a subject that, while not quite taboo, is usually dealt with extremely lightly. This comic combines a good level of honesty and humour with a bit of action adventure thrown in.

Published 2014 by Image Comics.

Source: Borrowed from Tim, who bought it from comiXology.