Tetris by Conor Lawless CC-BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/conchur/2443635669/

book review: tetris

I enjoyed Tetris: The Games People Play even though it was essentially a business story. Box Brown is good at making characters out of real people, and the very analog style of art worked really well in contrast to the pixels of the game under discussion for most of the book. It laid everything out clearly with the convoluted selling of rights that some people didn’t have, and in the end it all works out for the Russian who invented the game (though his friend and sidekick through most of the story ends up um.. badly in a way that surprised me and could have been a frame for a very different style of book).

In the beginning of the book there was a bit about the importance of games and the cultural significance of them, which gets wrapped around back to by the end. I think that’s the best part, and what I’ll probably return to. It felt a little like reading Scott McCloud in its clarity and use of the comic format.

I’ve become less of a devotee of the power of games in the last year or two, mostly because I’m seeing more ways that adding game layers to things enhances certain political projects. Which is conflicting, because while I love games and I wish I could play them more, but I prefer it when games are kept in the realm of recreation and art, not business or the betterment/anaesthetizing of society or the efficiency of an organization.

So yes, the book about Tetris made me feel bad about the world. But it’s good.

book review: annihilator

I liked Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving’s Annihilator, but I don’t mind stories about writers trying to write something good. In this comic, Ray Spass is an asshole screenwriter working on a dark space opera when the main character Max Nomax comes to him to find out what happened in Nomax’s life. There’s a data bullet lodged in the annihilator’s brain which corresponds to the inoperable brain tumour in Spass’. It doesn’t quite get to the level of Morrisony weirdness that it could, which is a bit disappointing and it’s kind of (extremely) wanky but it’s pretty.

book review: roughneck

Roughneck by Jeff Lemire is, like his classic Essex County, a story featuring a hockey player. Derek Ouellette had a stint with the Rangers where he was aviolent goon, and now he lives in a small shitty town in northern Ontario working at a diner and beating people up. When his sister comes to town to get away from a terrible boyfriend things change. Sort of.

What I love about this story is its handling of violence. It’s not a hugely complicated story, but the resolution shows exactly the kind of earned change I want to see in fiction.

The thing I feel weirdest about this book is that Jeff Lemire is a white guy telling stories about indigenous people. In this article he says:

“For me, these were a way to educate myself, that’s what it comes down to. And I hope my experiences up there allowed me to create something and reflect what I saw and show other people.”

For me that makes sense, but like Lemire I need to work out my thoughts in writing and I’m not from a community that has my story told for me, so I’m kind of primed to be sympathetic. I understand that it’s shitty to have white dudes in all these spaces. Don’t read white people’s writing about indigenous people: read (and pay) indigenous people telling their own stories. If you like comics a good anthology for finding some new creators would be Moonshot (here’s an article with some blurbs and examples of artists featured in that book, and Moonshot vol. 2 should be coming out soon).

But as far as Roughneck goes I do like this specific story, even if it’s a symptom of greater terribleness in the world.

book review: dirk gently’s holistic detective agency – the interconnectedness of all kings

I love Douglas Adams’ work. So much so I have to prepare myself mentally before watching someone else’s interpretation of it. I have to do the whole “These people won’t make what is in your head and that’s okay. Appreciate it for what it is.” thing even before watching something that’s not too bad. But building new stuff using Adams’ work gets me extra squirrelly.

The Dirk Gently novels were my introduction to Douglas Adams and I don’t really know why I thought I’d be able to handle a Dirk Gently comic that wasn’t an adaptation. The Interconnectedness of All Kings by Chris Ryall & Tony Akins & Ilias Kyriazis is the Dirk Gently comic I picked up at the library and I did not enjoy it. There’s a wrong tone to the whole thing that’s trying to mimic Adams and failing. The jokes about assistant vs associate are lazy. Adding in a flock of young wannabe detectives doesn’t make the story better, but it forces what could be interior dry jokes into mugging for the camera flamboyant bullshit.

So yes, I shouldn’t have read this. On the plus side, it didn’t take up much of my life and validated my decision not to read that Eoin Colfer sequel to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that came out a few years ago.

book review: the one hundred nights of hero

Isabel Greenberg’s The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a comic of linked folktales in a Scheherazade-esque kind of structure. Two shitty old men engage in a bet that one can’t seduce the other’s wife in one hundred nights and to deflect the lecherous powerful asshole she gets her lover/maid to tell them stories. The stories are about murder and the moon and strong sisters and magic pebbles (two of them) and there’s a 12 dancing princesses story in there that turns out a bit differently.

I enjoy Greenberg’s drawing style and the flattening of perspective that make the art fit the tales that feel home told and passed along (much like the stories in the story are passed along). Highly recommended.

book review: injection (vol. 1)

The first volume of a Warren Ellis-written comic is always interesting as he sets up a weird future filled with smart competent antisocial assholes saving the world from things worse than themselves. Injection is the first novel of just such a book.

Jordie Bellaire does the colour and Declan Shalvey does art and both are great. There’s an AI that’s mining myth to make the future weird and the border between our slightly in the future world and the otherspaces being created and invading are dramatic and beautiful.

Basically it’s a story about a thinktank that’s trying to make up for creating this future. There’s a deductive genius, a hacker, a spy, a magician and the Ahab/Nemo. Because it’s volume 1 it’s hard to get a sense of characters beyond their roles, but the reason I read Ellis stories is for the ideas and Injection has some neat ones around AI and magic as math. I liked it.

book review: demon (vol. 1)

Jason Shiga’s Demon (vol. 1) is a comic about a guy who tries to kill himself but it doesn’t take. There’s a Groundhog Day aspect to the first chunk of the volume while he figures out what’s going on, and then it becomes a pretty funny and gross action book where he realizes that the reason it isn’t working makes him one of the most dangerous people alive.

It’s drawn in a similar style to his choosable-path time-travel comic Meanwhile (and uses the same protagonist) but as the introduction states it is decidedly not a kids’ book. Good stuff.