Book Review: Storm

Do not be the slowest zebra.

Storm by Eric Jerome DickeyI was looking through my friend’s comic collection, and she showed me Storm by Eric Jerome Dickey. Eric Jerome Dickey! I used to love his books. (Did you know they are considered erotica?  It makes total sense now that I think about it.) My friends and I read his first five novels way back when I was in my early 20s, so I also have fond bonding memories of his books.

So, yes, Eric Jerome Dickey wrote a graphic novel about Storm from the X-Men, appropriately titled Storm.  It tells of her romance with Black Panther, before they are married.

What I Liked

– I loved the artwork.  Really sharp and crisp, great use of color, very expressive.  (The artwork is by David Yardin and Lan Medina.)

– Because the book is about Storm growing up in Africa (I forgot to write the country down in my notes, but I am pretty sure she is in Egypt), it operates as a pre-origin origin story.  What I mean is that it’s not about how she came to join X-Men or how she goes from Ororo to Storm. It’s about what it meant for her to be a young girl (she’s twelve when the story starts) living on the streets who can sometimes make freaky things happen with the weather. I think that’s great because you don’t really need to know anything about the character to get into the story.

– There’s quite a bit about loyalty and family in here that’s handled in an interesting way. Family means different things, and measures of loyalty are not always what you expect.  I really enjoyed seeing that explored.

– T’Challa (Black Panther) and Ororo are fully drawn characters, and though the book explores their epic (and pretty instantaneous) love, a lot of the conflict comes from Ororo’s relationship with her adoptive street family.

– You really get a sense of the inherent badassery that is to come from Storm.

What I Didn’t Like

– Okay, my biggest issue with the book is with the sex. I have nothing against sex in novels, and it’s handled really tastefully in terms of the art (i.e., it isn’t graphically depicted or anything). My real problem with it is that Ororo is twelve, but she is drawn like a woman.

I found an interview with EJD, and this is how he describes Ororo:

I know that she’s a very beautiful woman as an adult, but I wanted the 13-year-old whose body is going through changes and does not think she’s attractive; who hasn’t come into her beauty yet; where every other girl for some reason looks better to her,” he said. “I think Ororo is 5’11” so, make her too tall for her age, make her lanky; make her… not quite comfortable with her own body yet.

Which works!  And there is a lot of emphasis in the book about the changes her body is going through, how she has just started her cycle, etc. And she is drawn as he describes throughout.

(Also, he says in the interview thirteen, but she is twelve in the book.)

Except when it’s time for the sexing. Then, her body is very mature, and she looks older.  And I get it.  I do.  It is kind of weird to think about a twelve-year-old with a twevle-year-old’s body having sex.  BUT THAT IS THE STORY.  I would have preferred that there was some continuity there because, hey, that is the story you are telling! Do not make her look sixteen or seventeen (or even older it can be argued) when she is twelve because, oh, it is time for sex now and we can’t have the lanky teenager doing that.

And, yes, I know there are very developed teenaged girls out there.  I worked at a middle school and several of the girls had more voluptuous and mature bodies than me. And some of them were even having sex.  BUT THEY LOOKED TWELVE/THIRTEEN.

Which leads to another dislike.

– Time.  I have no idea when this story happens and how that affects the age Ororo decides to have sex. There are other pregnant girls in the story, and Ororo seems to know that it’s because they went off with boys, but I don’t know if this is just accepted because it’s a culture thing (meaning the street culture she lives in) or if it’s because of the timing of the story.  Again, I have known pregnant teens (one of my classmates was pregnant in eighth grade and one of my middle school students was pregnant as well), but both of those cases were abnormal, and so it’s something I would like a little context for within the story.

The sex stuff isn’t my only time complaint.  I would also like to know because I needed to be grounded in the story.  Is the technology in the story very now or is it advanced for its time, etc.? At times the story seemed very now, and other times it felt like it was set in the past.

In conclusion: Sex blunder aside, I really enjoyed the story and, again, loved the artwork.

POC Reading Challenge:  15/15

Book Review: Icon: A Hero’s Welcome

When you can fly, there’s no burden you can’t bear.  When you can fly, gravity can’t touch you.  When you can fly…you can do anything.

I love the cartoon Static Shock, and so I was hoping against hope that my library either had Static in stock or had it available via ILL. Sadly, it did not.  But!  Icon: A Hero’s Welcome was available, and since I love Dwayne McDuffie (creator of Static Shock, one of the writers/producers of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited, and now a writer for Ben 10) (also, and not to put too fine a point on it, he started his own comic book company because he wanted to be able to write the stories he wanted to tell), I figured reading Icon was practically the same as reading Static.

The basic premise of I:AHW is “What if Superman was black?” Augustus Freeman IV crash lands on earth during slavery, imitates the looks of the person who finds him (a slave woman), and then lives a really long time.  He decides to become a superhero after a teenage girl, Rocket, tells him how helpful it would be for other African-Americans to know they have a hero of their own.

What I Liked

– Rocket is kind of amazing.  I love that Augustus is inspired by her, I like that she sees so much more for herself and the people she knows, I like that she calls Augustus on his inaccessible man on the hill persona (he’s a lawyer).  She becomes his sidekick not because he takes her in, but because she pushes him to do more.  That’s kind of cool.

– There’s a lot of commentary on race, gender, and class in the book.  Rocket, as an African-American teenage girl, has more possible complications for her life [she gets pregnant] than, say, Dick Grayson.  She is not an orphan but lives in the projects, so sees her relationship with Augustus as a way to access so much more.  And it’s not just his wealth that attracts her, but his access to education.

Race-wise, Rocket and her friends try to rob Augustus because they assume it’s a white person’s house, and they initially mistake him for the butler.  When Icon and Rocket show up to help the police, they try to shoot him.  Because, obviously, he must be a bad guy who is part of the plot against the mayor. Superman never has these problems.

I already mentioned some of the class effects re: Rocket, but there’s another subplot that discusses a community forgotten after a major riot in Dakota.  The book addresses turf wars, helplessness, and politics.

The book also operates as a commentary on what’s missing from the traditional superhero story that focuses on white, male characters.

What I Didn’t Like

– Calling it a dislike is strong, but the artwork is kind of dated.  The colors are very purple and yellow and, you know, 1990s’ Cross Colours.  So it’s fitting for the time, but dated for the now.  I still liked it overall.

In conclusion:  Solid characters, fantastic premise, and a solid story make this a very nice introduction to the Icon brand and Milestone Comics.  I really wish I could get my hands on Static now.  Moreso than before, even.

POC Reading Challenge:  14/15; YA Reading Challenge:  21/75

Book Review: Nappy

NappyThe librarian suggested Nappy by Charisse Carney-Nunes after hearing a conversation I was having with another woman in line about finding a natural hairstylist.  Carney-Nunes intends the book to “affirm the beauty and strength of black hair” as per an interview at The Brown Bookshelf.

I mention how she sees the book because I absolutely did not like it, nor did I take get the intended message from the book.  I can see what it’s trying to do–link natural hair with the history of blackness in the U.S., specifically the triumphs of black women.

The problem is that black natural hair is presented as a burden.  It’s painful, it’s a nuisance, it’s a struggle to have.  The repeated line is that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle like having nappy hair is some great tragedy that has to be overcome.  It’s equated with the Civil Rights movement, slavery, etc.  Which is fine on paper because, yes, that is the history.

But the little girl that’s getting her hair combed is in pain. There is nothing enjoyable presented about having nappy hair. As a mother of a child whose hair isn’t chemically treated, I would not want her to read the book about how her hair is some great trial to overcome, that it’s SO HARD to wear her hair the way it is.

We enjoy hair time. We watch movies and talk. If I’m hurting her when I do her hair, it’s because I’m doing something wrong–like not moisturizing her hair enough. The only great struggle for me, as a woman who has stopped using chemicals in my hair, is not wanting to do my hair, which was an issue I had when my hair was relaxed.

So this gets a big thumbs down for me.

Although I did like the mini-biographies presented of the women featured in the book.

POC Reading Challenge:  13/15

Book Review: Witch Week


Witch WeekThe librarian recommended the audiobook version of Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones (narrated by Gerard Doyle) to my daughter several months ago.  The book is part of DWJ’s Chrestomanci series, which we didn’t know until after we finished the book.  In Witch Week, witchcraft is a burnable offense, so when someone in Class 6B is declared a witch, it causes lots of complications for the class as well as the school.

What I Liked

– Gerard Doyle is an AWESOME narrator.  Oh my goodness.  His line readings are amazing.  AMAZING.

– Fantastic characters.  What I really like is that one of the protagonists actually becomes unlikeable near the end of the book.  It was an unexpected turn, but works really well and makes perfect sense.

– That is because the storytelling is so neato.  Her descriptions are so vivid, the setting is believable, and, though there are a lot of characters, it’s easy to keep track of them all because their voices and characteristics are so unique.

– Not only is the book about magic and witchcraft, it is also thoroughly about the injustices of adolescence.  Getting picked on mercilessly, not being able to do anything right, the desire to escape.  But also, finding unexpected friends and allies.

– I love the humor in the book.

– “It hurts to be burned.”

What I Didn’t Like

– As mentioned above, we didn’t know the book was part of a series, so when Chrestomanci shows up, it didn’t quite make sense to us because, though he is explained, there is the idea that we should know something about who he is and where he’s from.  Also, he affects the narrative in a big way, so knowing a little about him would have helped.

That said, it’s perfectly clear in the narrative what’s going on, and his appearance didn’t detract from the narrative aside from a small discussion we had after the book was over.

In conclusion:  This book was a lot of fun, and it is an AWESOME audiobook.  Did I mention that Gerard Doyle is amazing?  I kind of want to listen to other books he’s narrated now.  My daughter and I are also interested in more Diana Wynne Jones.  It seems weird to mention the author second since she provided the source material, but Doyle is really that good.

Book Review: Calamity Jack

I think of myself as a criminal mastermind…with an unfortunate amount of bad luck.

Calamity Jack, the sequel to Rapunzel’s Revenge [my review is here], by Shannon & Dean Hale and Nathan Hale starts with a little background information about Jack and his history as a thief as well as how he came to be on the run when he hooked up with Rapunzel.  Once that’s out of the way, the story picks up right where Rapunzel’s Revenge ended.

What I Liked

– Jack is Native American!  Or Native wherever the book is set.  I didn’t realize that in the first book because I just assumed he was, ya know, weathered.  Because of the whole Wild West (or wherever it is) thing.  What’s really interesting about Jack’s ethnicity is that it explicitly situates him as a trickster figure, which is really kind of cool if you consider the Native American storytelling tradition.

– I liked the character development in this book.  It was nice to learn so much more about Jack, his past, and his family.

– The new characters were also a lot of fun, especially Jack’s old road dog, his mom, and the villain.  FEE FIE FOE FUM.  The way the beanstalk story was handled was very inventive.

– Jack and Rapunzel’s relationship is explored a little more here, and it’s good to see how well he knows her, even if he is clueless about how to express how much he likes her.

– The romantic rival is handled nicely and isn’t annoying at all.

– There’s the same level of humor here.  I found myself laughing out loud quite a few times.

What I Didn’t Like

– The plot is kind of hard to explain.  I mean, yes, Jack is trying to save his mom from the evil giants and restore order back to the city, but everything beyond that is kind of like…what?  That doesn’t mean it’s not a fun ride, but it’s not as straightforward as Rapunzel’s story was.

– I just wasn’t as invested in this story as I was with Rapunzel’s.  I think it’s because Jack, great character though he is, is just not as interesting to me as Rapunzel.  I really enjoyed all of the parts with the two of them interacting, but when she was off-page, I wasn’t quite as into the story.  So I think it’s just a case of Rapunzel being a better character.

In conclusion:  Not as sharp as Rapunzel’s Revenge, but still a fun, breezy read.

YA Reading Challenge:  20/75; POC Reading Challenge:  12/15

Book Review: Temping Fate

Myths help keep the forces of the cosmos in balance; we let you see them in perspective.  We are stories and stories have endings.  When you mortals face small tastes of Chaos…just knowing it all has to end sometime can save you from feeling completely helpless.

Temping FateMy daughter is big into Greek mythology so when I saw Temping Fate by Esther M. Friesner–about  girl who gets a job temping for the Fates–I picked it up.

What I Liked

– The premise.  Sometimes the gods need someone to help out with the boring tasks (like typing up official death certificates) or the low level tasks (boring hero work).

– The temps get an opportunity to sit down and talk to each other and share notes, which is kind of cool.

– Some interesting characters are introduced, especially as it relates to which gods they work for.

What I Didn’t Like

– I honestly couldn’t tell you that much about the main character except that she caught smallpox in Africa (no particular country, just Africa), and her sister used to work at her old job.

– The plotting is horrible.  The villain is introduced a third of the way from the end.

– Also, it’s just really boring.  Nothing happens until the end, and even then, I didn’t care what happened to anybody.  Except maybe Corey.

In conclusion:  Great premise, messy and lifeless execution.

YA Challenge:  19/75