Friday, May 31, 2019

Review of "The Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe," by Mark Gruenwald et. al.

Review of

The Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe, by Mark Gruenwald et. al. 

Four out of five stars

 This story starts strange and ends with an unexpected recovery from an Earth consuming disaster. It opens with of all things a gladiatorial contest between two semi-clad attractive females in front of Lord Scarlet in the year 3979. When it is over and Lord Scarlet pronounces his boredom, he consults with his scientists concerning the complete lack of historical knowledge regarding the last half of the twentieth century on Earth. The scientists have been able to record a major event, where it appears that a giant hand simply engulfed the Earth.

 This is only prologue as the storyline shifts back to a time shortly before the Earth is engulfed as the Squadron Supreme is informed of the dire circumstances forthcoming. To get to this point, we see one of the heroes breastfeeding her baby boy Benjamin, two of the heroes selectively targeting their powers to remove the swimsuit from the other and a fight between two other members of the squadron.

 With a little more than ten hours to go, the Squadron Supreme must find and equip a spaceship, travel to the giant hand and find a way to stop it. Hardly a simple task, but of course these are superheroes. Good and evil come together to fight a common foe and not totally successfully. However, there is an ending that is completely unexpected that saves the overall story, which is a bit complex with many personal interactions, not all of which add to the story.

 If it were not for the unexpected nature of the ending and the quality fade out of Lord Scarlet, this would have been a three-star story.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Review of "The Death of Groo The Wanderer," by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier

Review of

The Death of Groo The Wanderer, by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier ISBN 0871352907

Four out of five stars

 This story in graphic novel form uses the plot device of the bumbling, ignorant hero that finds it almost impossible to do anything right yet manages to succeed in the end. After two major failures, Groo is so despised by the ruler that he spends a great deal of his time stating how much he hates Groo. Subjects that do not express similar opinions with sufficient fervor are severely punished.

 Groo is a complete idiot, so stupid that he is baffled when he hears that he is dead. There is a dragon called Floom Floom that terrorizes the area and Groo manages to meet the dragon in what is supposed to be a fight, but incompetence saves Groo from the flames.

 The action is always on the stupid side, the best part of the book is the captions of rhyming verse “sung” by a minstrel. They are made up of reasonably intelligent dialog, unlike the dumb piled on dumb features of the rest.

 If you are a fan of the bumbling, incompetent hero type of story, then you will like this book. However, if you don’t you will almost certainly find it dull and boring.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Review of "Daredevil and the Punisher," by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Review of

Daredevil and the Punisher, by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson ISBN 0871353512

Five out of five stars

 The Punisher is a character that appeals to all people that are concerned about crime in the streets as well as those that orchestrate it from their comfortable surroundings. He is the answer to the proverbial statement, “Somebody should do something.”  While Punisher will not injure an innocent, he thinks nothing of killing the criminals without trial or any other recourse. Daredevil Is also a vigilante, but he follows a form of due process and does not kill his foes as a normal component of his actions.

 Those two values and personalities clash in this gritty story about drugs, specifically Angel Dust. A crime kingpin known as Hogman controls the Angel Dust trade in the city and when a middle school child kills herself by jumping out a window while under the influence, the dual personality of Daredevil and attorney Matt Murdock gets involved. Hating the drug pushers, their murderous ruthlessness and what the drugs do to people, the Punisher starts cleaning up the streets by littering them with bodies.

 This is a tough story about how mean the streets can be when the power and influence of selling drugs is involved. It is a graphic novel with a message regarding drugs, how they can kill you and what they do to society.

Review of "Liberty! How the Revolutionary War Began," by Lucille Recht Penner

Review of

Liberty! How the Revolutionary War Began, by Lucille Recht Penner ISBN 0439334241

Four out of five stars

 This book is an excellent addition to home and school libraries of history. Written at the level of the very late elementary school student, it gives a candid explanation of the causes and events of the American war for independence.

 There is a bit of bias towards the colonists, while there is mention of the French and Indian War and the British victory in that conflict, there is no mention of the cost. The British leaders were justified in believing that the colonists should pay for the expenses of the war that benefited the colonists. There is a clear explanation of how heavy-handed the British actions were, the taxes were simply imposed with no negotiations or representation. Had the British leadership been more reasonable, it is likely there would have been no revolution.

 An easy and informative read, this is a book that should be read by all American children.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Review of "Emperor Doom: Marvel Graphic Novel," by David Micheline and Bob Hall

Review of

Emperor Doom: Marvel Graphic Novel, by David Micheline and Bob Hall ISBN 0871352567

Five out of five stars

 This graphic novel presents another side of the evil Dr. Doom, one that appears only when he has total control over the people of the Earth and is truly emperor of the planet. Using the psycho-seductive powers of the Purple Man, Doom is able to amplify and transmit the mind-controlling forces around the world. There are only a few with the will power to resist, so Doom must deal with them on an individual basis. Even the mighty Avengers and Namor are not immune to the persuasive forces.

 Fortunately, Power Man is engaged in an isolation experiment, so he has not been turned. He is able to serve as the spark of a rebellion against the power Doom has over the world. Yet, Doom’s influence is in many ways a positive thing, for all wars, bigotry and poverty are ended under his rule. Furthermore, Doom does not rule as a tyrant, but as a conscientious ruler, there is a caption where he is reminded that he must attend a meeting on farm subsidy revisions in Pruszkow.

 There is a great deal of moral ambiguity in this story, for the Avengers must make a choice for all of humanity, peace and prosperity under Doom or freedom and otherwise under a hodgepodge of human leaders. That is one of the many aspects that make this a great story.

Review of "The Aladdin Effect: A Marvel Graphic Novel," by James Shooter et. al.

Review of

The Aladdin Effect: A Marvel Graphic Novel, by James Shooter et. al. ISBN 0871350815

Four out of five stars

  The superheroes in this book are all female. It is based on the premise that a powerful force field has appeared around the small town of Venture Ridge, Wyoming and it is impossible for anyone or anything to get in or out. The field has been in place for two months and while the people are coping reasonably well, civil order is starting to break down as the food is running out. There is no electric power

 Holly-Ann is the daughter of the Sheriff and she is a fan of some of the female superheroes. When her father catches her reading about them, he takes her book and adds it to the nightly fire. That does not stop her desire to be rescued and she goes to sleep wishing for the arrival of some female heroes.

 Storm is the first to arrive but even though she is in full costume, she is suffering from amnesia. With Holly-Ann’s prompting in the face of danger, Storm manages to fight off the memory loss and regain the use of her powers. She-Hulk is the next to arrive, followed by the Wasp and Tigra.

 Banding together, they learn that Venture Ridge is the focal point of the damping field created by a criminal enterprise. The organization possesses a great deal of power that they can channel, one of the leaders beats the crap out of She-Hulk.  

 At first, the townspeople shy away from fighting back against their oppressors, but the courage of Holly-Ann’s father provides inspiration and with the alliance between the superheroes and the common people, they are able to defeat the evil-doers, eliminating the force field and allowing Venture Ridge to rejoin the world.

 While this is in many ways a standard graphic novel featuring a team of superheroes battling the evildoers, there is a focus on Holly-Ann with indications that she is a powerful being in her own right. Creating the potential for an interesting sequel. It is a bit sexist, none more than when, in the literal middle of the battle, an elderly townswoman offers a dazed Storm a cup of hot cocoa. There are also several captions featuring a modest Wasp out of uniform.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Review of "The Battle of Okinawa: The Typhoon of Steel and Bombs," by Masahide Ota

Review of

The Battle of Okinawa: The Typhoon of Steel and Bombs, by Masahide Ota ISBN 4906034012

Five out of five stars

Of the battles in the Pacific between the Empire of Japan and the Allies, Iwo Jima seems to grab the headlines and attention while the battle of Okinawa dwarfed it. On Iwo Jima approximately 110,000 Allied service members faced off against 21,000 Japanese. The battle raged for about a month and there were very few civilian casualties.

 The Allied operation on Okinawa was the largest amphibian operation in the Pacific Theater of the war, with over a half-million Allied personnel taking part against approximately 96,000 Japanese and conscripted Okinawans. Roughly one-third of the civilian population died in the three months of intense and brutal combat.

 The Battle of Okinawa was really the last possible chance the Japanese military had to deal a blow to the Allies strong enough to lead to a negotiated settlement. It was where the kamikaze and other suicide attacks were the fiercest, as the Japanese High Command was reaching a level of desperation.

 This account of the battle covers both sides, including the significant arguments that took place between the Japanese commanders. Some wanted to stay on the defense, arguing that every day the battle continued was one more day the homeland stayed relatively safe from invasion. A significant question is also raised, “Could a blockade and siege have led to a surrender over time?”

 The action on Okinawa was decisive in removing all ambiguity regarding the ultimate result of the war. It also demonstrated to the American commanders that an invasion of the Japanese main islands would have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. Some estimated the number of American combat dead as a half-million. Predictions of Japanese deaths of military and civilians were in the millions. In fact, some American commanders used phrases like “Okinawa from end to end.”

 This is an excellent book that should be read by all people interested in the last months of the war in the Pacific. The horrific fighting in Okinawa was a clear prelude of what was to come and had a great deal of influence in the decision to use nuclear weapons.

Review of "Bad Girls Film Fatales Sirens and Molls," by Tony Turtu

Review of

Bad Girls Film Fatales Sirens and Molls, by Tony Turtu ISBN 1933112034

Five out of five stars

 This is a book about the “bad girls” of the movies, the movie roles containing female characters that largely followed the stereotype of the “fallen woman.” Many of the movies cited as examples are openly listed as B level or lower. Nearly all of the women are stunning beauties and most of the major female stars before 1970 appear in a caption. Even such celebrated “good girls” such as Doris Day and Lucille Ball are the subjects of a caption.

 The movies are placed in seven categories for organizational purposes. Each caption has two parts, a large paragraph of explanatory text with an associate image. The source of the image is stated, from lobby cards, to scene stills, to posters to magazine covers. Some of the roles cited range from the start of a career to the bomb that essentially terminated a career. I especially enjoyed the captions featuring Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny in the James Bond films) and Barbara Hale (Della Street in the Perry Mason television series.)

The descriptions are interesting, if you are looking for a movie that is so bad it is good, look here. If you are interested in seeing women in roles not usually associated with their work, this is also a good reference for that.

Review of "Someplace Strange," by Ann Nocenti and John Bolton

Review of

Someplace Strange, by Ann Nocenti and John Bolton ISBN 087135439X

Four out of five stars

 This graphic novel is one of the strangest that I have ever read. It takes the common plot device of imaginative teen boys with their fantasies and fears in many dark directions.

 The story opens with two boys in what looks like a classic mad scientist lair working on a glass-bubbled contraption that is stated to be a planet-skimming ship. The device is large enough for one of them to sit in. The jargon is typical of boys of that age, when talking about a test flight one of them says, “I’ve calculated to the zilli-fraction! The balance is perfect.” It turns out they are in a shed and the small rocket that they launch inside blows up with a lot of smoke.

 The next scene in the plot shows the two of them getting ready for bed with their parents in their bedroom. They express their fear of bad dreams and monsters, which happens. However, these bad dreams and fantasies are bizarre, even for young teen boys. They are transported to a strange world with a female artist a bit older than they are that is populated by an assortment of weird and unusual creatures and landscape features.

 The images are complex, one has to look at them thoroughly if you are to see and interpret all of the features. All the action is unpredictable and there are no warm fuzzies or even a hint of the potential for a happy ending. It is a dark story of fear, facing it and trying to cope. The author and artist also demonstrate a great deal of imagination.

Review of "Star Wars 105 May 1986" Comic Book

Review of

Star Wars 105 May 1986 Comic Book

Two out of five stars

 Since this is a Star Wars story, there must be some good aspects to it. However, the unusual alien creatures involved in the story are neither adorable nor even all that interesting.

 The tale opens with Luke being held “prisoner” by a group of what look like large bipedal locusts called the Hiromi. They are green, love to eat and openly state the position that they are powerful. Unfortunately, they are predecessors to the extremely annoying Jar-Jar-Binks character of episode one of the main Star Wars sequence of movies and they are cowards with no redeeming features.

 Other creatures that are allied with Luke are the Hoojibs, white bunny-like creatures that are telepathic and energy eaters. They are also being held by the Hiromi, and they are baffled by Luke’s acquiescence to his captivity. The action really takes off when a group of green skinned manlike people dressed in garb right out of the worst pirate movies break the door down and take over.

 Although it seems to have been meant to be taken seriously, this comic reads more like an awful parody than a genuine story. I found it rather dull and uninspired.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Review of "The Worst From Mad Super Special Number 53"

Review of

The Worst From Mad Super Special Number 53, Winter 1985

Four out of five stars

 I am sure that there are others that are entertained by reading humor published decades ago to discover how the world of humor has changed. When I say this, I am partially referring to the hard swearing that is so common in modern humor, where much of it has to be labeled “Adults only,” which is unfortunate. I consider a reliance on swearing to be funny to be a sign of unoriginality.

 The humor in this collection of items from Mad takes you to a world where humor is dry, stupid, yet often brilliant in the use of images in combination with incongruous sequences. The humor is sometimes crude, yet not in the vulgar sense, even for thirty years ago.

 This book is an existence proof that certain types of humor age well. With only tangential references to current political events, this material will still be funny many years in the future as long as you know the movies that are being spoofed.

Review of "Edenville Owls," by Robert B. Parker

Review of

Edenville Owls, by Robert B. Parker ISBN 9780399246562

Four out of five stars

 This book is a significant departure from the usual Parker stories, in both action and dialog. In structure and plotline, it is more suited as a young adult novel rather than one for adult readers. The context is shortly after the end of World War II, when the men are returning to their lives after what were often horrific experiences.

 Bobby Murphy is in middle school and his best friend for years is Joannie, only now adolescence is making both of them aware that things are getting different between them. They want to remain friends, but now the boys talk and think about sex. There is also a very pretty new teacher, Miss Delaney, young and attractive enough to light a hormonal fire in early teen boys. Bobby has formed the Edenville Owls basketball team with four of his friends. With no coach and no other support, their goal is to win the state championship in their division.

 When Bobby witnesses a man physically assaulting Miss Delaney, it is clear that she knows him and that he will not simply leave. Resolving to do something to aid Miss Delaney despite her insistent that he do not, Bobby must find a way to determine what the context really is so that he can take countermeasures against an adult man and war veteran. This makes the book a light detective story with a sports plot in a secondary role.

 A combination of teen angst, the desire to play competitive and winning sports and a detective novel based on the thought processes of middle schoolers, fans of Parker will miss the snappy dialog and tense action typical of his more well-known series.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Review of "The Power of Iron Man," presented by Stan Lee

Review of

The Power of Iron Man, presented by Stan Lee ISBN 0939766973

Five out of five stars

 This graphic novel goes where no writer/artist/comic book had ever gone before, an honest treatment of heavy drinking to the point of alcoholism. While drunks have been presented as jokes in other forms of entertainment, recall the character of Otis in the Andy Griffith Show, nothing of the serious from had ever appeared in comics. The rigid and unrelenting Comics Code Authority prevented a great deal of real life outside of the comic books.

 Tony Stark, the body within Iron Man, is a genius inventor like no other on Earth. He is very rich, is primary owner of one of the greatest industrial companies on Earth and has the coolest costume on the planet. Yet, he is still a man and suffers from inner turmoil common to geniuses. Like so many others, he finds some form of solace in bottles of alcoholic beverages.

 Many threads are covered, from the origin of Iron Man in a communist prison camp to Tony hitting bottom and an intervention by a female friend that pulls Tony out of the bottle and back to a functioning man and hero. While comic books are of course based on impossible fiction, the heroes are still people and have strengths, weaknesses and human flaws. The fact that this graphic novel operates on that premise and presents some harsh realities of life makes it a historic breakthrough in the world of comics.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Review of "The Wolf and the Raven: Totem Poles of Southeastern Alaska," by Viola E. Garfield and Linn A. Forrest

Review of

The Wolf and the Raven: Totem Poles of Southeastern Alaska, by Viola E. Garfield and Linn A. Forrest ISBN 0295739983

Five out of five stars

 The totem poles of the natives of British Columbia and Alaska are literally story poles in the sense that they are a physical representation of legends, myths and folklore. After many years of neglect, there was a concerted effort by the United States Forest Service starting in 1938 to preserve and restore the remaining poles. Unfortunately, for many of the poles, the preservation effort came too late.

 The physical structure of some of the most prominent poles along with the legends they represent is presented here. The stories are what one would expect from a hunter people, they are based on the animals in their world such as the wolf and raven. There are many images of the higher quality poles, they are an impressive art form, for they are majestic. The various tribes and their styles are also described.

 There is a depressing recounting on page 10 of a native carver that turned against the craft and his people. John Wallace was the son of a prominent carver who became a lay worker for the local church. He renounced a career in woodcarving, and he encouraged his people to cut down and destroy totem poles, personally destroying some of them. It is another unfortunate incident of a person finding one religion only to try to destroy the heritage of another.

  One of the items we studied in elementary school was the totem poles in Alaska. I still remember seeing the pictures and hearing the legends, some of which no doubt appears in this book. It is fortunate that this aspect of native culture is being preserved.

Review of "Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery," by John Feinstein

Review of

Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery, by John Feinstein, ISBN 0553494600

Five out of five stars

 This is a plausible mystery involving teens interacting with adults on roughly an equal basis. Steven Thomas and Susan Carol are in their early teen years and they are the co-winners of a sports writing contest and their reward is to attend the NCAA Final Four series in New Orleans and write about it. While they will be showcased to some extent, they are expected to submit stories regarding the events inside the Final Four atmosphere.  Therefore, they are issued press credentials. One of the teams in the Final Four is Minnesota State University (MSU) and their star player is Chip Graber.  

 By accident, Steven and Susan overhear Chip speaking with a man that is making threats to Chip, promising dire consequences of Chip does not throw the final game to Duke if MSU and Duke are to play for the championship. This is the first step in an adventure worthy of reading about. While Steven is a bit more cautious, Susan is completely comfortable in making up stories and relationships in order to investigate the attempted blackmail.

 As a consequence of an incredible shot by Chip at the end of overtime in the semi-final game, MSU and Duke play for the championship. Facing great pressure to succeed due to betrayal and danger to Susan and Steven, Chip plays poorly in the first half. However, things right themselves and there is a dramatic ending in the “big game at the end.”

 The story is structured where Steven and Susan must think very fast and create plausible stories on the fly in order to pursue the case. One very good feature is that Susan generally takes the lead in creating their cover stories, eventually Steven sits back and lets her lead. It is great sports story that all can relate to, for the focus is on the people that watch the games rather than those that play them.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Review of "Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor," by Russell Freedman

Review of

Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor, by Russell Freedman, ISBN 978-0395797266

Five out of five stars

 One of the threads that has run through modern industrial societies since the industrial revolution began has been that liberal ideas start slowly, face opposition from conservative elements and eventually take hold and become an integral component of society. Child labor laws are one such idea. One of the most astounding facts I have ever encountered appears on page 16. It references a three-year-old girl named Angelica that made 540 artificial flowers a day in the tenement apartment where her family lives. Her wages for that day are five cents with no other benefits.

 Lewis Hine was a crusader with a camera that traveled the United States taking pictures of children at work, often in the most dirty and dangerous of conditions. From the factories spinning cotton, to picking cotton in the fields to the coal mines, children were utilized as labor because their labor was cheap. Desperate parents needed every penny their family could earn when there was little in the way of social support.

 Despite their being children and prone to having a sunny disposition, you can generally see the fatigue and despair in their faces. Hine’s pictures did a great deal to advance the movement against child labor, particularly in dangerous occupations. The text explains the images as well as a history of National Child Labor Committee and the legal steps that were taken. Congress passed child labor laws in 1916 and 1918, but they were struck down as unconstitutional by the U. S. Supreme Court.

 The struggle to keep children in school and out of the factories did not succeed until the Great Depression, when the lack of jobs led to pressures to have adults with families fill them. The two-track social movements of compulsory education of children and preventing the youngest from working combined to largely eliminate child labor. As this book recounts, this humane action was not without a bitter struggle against conservative forces.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Review of "Sports Heroes and Legends Hank Aaron," by Serena Kappes

Review of

Sports Heroes and Legends Hank Aaron, by Serena Kappes ISBN 0760769044

Five out of five stars

 Now that Barry Bonds has eclipsed Hank Aaron’s record for career home runs, Aaron’s other hitting achievements seem to have devolved out of mind. Yet, Aaron is third all-time in the number of hits, had a higher career batting average than Bonds and drove in 300 more runs. He is arguably the best overall hitter of all time.

 This book was published thirty years after Aaron retired and is an excellent modern introduction to his life on and off the field. When he started playing professional baseball, segregation was still the norm in the south and Aaron was one of the first African American players in the Sally League while still a teenager. It was a hard life at the beginning, yet with the help of others, Aaron could focus on baseball and win the fans with his play on the field.

 A story about skills and perseverance, Aaron was present through much of the struggles for equality and civil rights on and off the playing field. He was a great player, arguably the best hitter of all time and this book makes that very clear to the young reader.

Review of "The Big Wave," by Pearl S. Buck

Review of

The Big Wave, by Pearl S. Buck ISBN 0440840554

Five out of five stars

 This short story about life on the seacoast of Japan features the heritage of a people that choose to simply accept the reality of the natural disasters along the Japanese ocean shore. Kino is a farm boy that lives on the side of a mountain with a view of the ocean far below. His best friend Jiya is the son of a fisherman and their house is on the edge of the sea. There is also mention of the centuries old stone terraces that allow the side of the mountain to be farmed.

 Both professions are necessary so that they can eat their staple meal, which is fish with rice. Life is generally good, but Kino is puzzled when he sees that none of the houses on the shore have windows that face the ocean. When he inquires, Kino learns it is because of the recurring history of the sea becoming angry with great waves coming in, wiping out the village.

 The nearby volcano erupts, and a tsunami comes in, wiping out the village, leaving only a few stone posts. All of the people that did not seek shelter die, including all the other people in Jiya’s family. Over time, the village is built once again, despite the knowledge that there could be another giant wave.

 This story is about tradition and how the Japanese live their lives joyously, knowing that the sea could become angry and destructive at any time. It is a great introduction to an aspect of Japanese culture, how they face danger, yet live their lives in the traditional way. Eventually, rebuilding what was lost in the same location and using the same construction materials.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Review of "Working the Plate: The Eric Gregg Story," by Eric Gregg and Marty Appel

Review of

Working the Plate: The Eric Gregg Story, by Eric Gregg and Marty Appel ISBN 0688090893

Four out of five stars

 While he was not the first black umpire in the major leagues, Eric Gregg was the first to have a lengthy career. Known for his disarming personality and large size, Gregg brought a distinctive style to the ballpark. He was one of the early umpires to insert some secondary entertainment into the game.

 He was not without a bit of controversy, promoted to the majors at the age of 24, there is reason to believe that his appointment was an affirmative action move by major league baseball. He also made some very controversial calls that were branded as some of the worst decisions of the decade.

 This is his story and I found myself wishing he had spent more ink describing some of the on-field situations that he was a part of. Some of them are very funny and certainly more entertaining than the more routine descriptions of where he lived and his daily life outside baseball.

 In his own way, Eric Gregg was a pioneer for blacks in major league baseball, his 22 years in blue and early “retirement” make him an underappreciated individual that helped expand opportunities for minorities in positions of authority in baseball. He also openly praises and criticizes the players, coaches and managers that he had to deal with on a daily basis.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The "Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer," by Jimmy Carter

The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer, by Jimmy Carter ISBN 0812927311

Five out of five stars

In this book, ex-president Jimmy Carter once again demonstrates his versatility as a writer, creating a delightful book for children. It is a variant of a classic plot of the disadvantaged youth encountering a strange creature, (a Snoogle-Fleejer) that others consider a monster. The creature is in fact a gentle entity, working to aid the boy when his family is in dire straits.
It is a simple tale, written well so that the message is easy for young readers to understand. The book is illustrated by Carter’s daughter Amy with blurry, watercolor-like details. While not spectacular, they are worthy enough to combine with the text to make a book that I would have read to my daughter when she was young.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Review of "Fairy Tale Comics," edited by Chris Duffy

Review of

Fairy Tale Comics, edited by Chris Duffy ISBN 9781626725065

Five out of five stars

 In this book, highly rated cartoonists retell some of the classic fairy tales. Many will be familiar to the general audience, for example there are expressions of “Hansel and Gretel,” “Puss in Boots,” “Snow White,” and “Rapunzel.” Lesser known tales such as the Japanese, “The Boy Who Drew Cats,” the Russian “Baba Yaga,” and the Italian “Azzolino’s Story Without End” are also included.

 Since a different artist drew each story, the artwork varies widely. However, while the differences are clear, the fundamental structure of the stories comes through. It is interesting to compare artistic styles from one story to the next.

 This is a book to be recommended for several features. The primary one is that it contains graphic renditions of several international fairy tale stories. They are educational, as one can learn a great deal about a culture by reading their ancient fairy tales. Presenting them in graphic form makes it much easier for the reader to read and comprehend the stories.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Review of "Insectlopedia: Poems and Paintings," by Douglas Florian

Review of

Insectlopedia: Poems and Paintings, by Douglas Florian ISBN 0152013067

Five out of five stars

 The structure of this book is a collection of short pieces of prose on one side and a caricature-style image on the other. Both relate to a specific type of insect, from spiders to moths to ticks and mayflies. The pictures appear to be watercolors, and while there is no precise detail, there is enough for the experienced reader to recognize the insect.

 Some of the insects have facial expressions, which will delight the young reader that pays close attention. The text rhymes and is written at the level of the late elementary school student. A fun book that is also educational, it is a worthy addition to personal and educational libraries.

Review of "Discovering Nature’s Alphabets," by Krystina Castella and Brian Boyl

Review of

Discovering Nature’s Alphabets, by Krystina Castella and Brian Boyl ISBN 159714021x

Five out of five stars

 This book is a primer on what is a great hiking game, looking for the letters of the Latin alphabet in natural formations. The letters can be made from rocks, trees, animals, sticks or anything else one could see while hiking a nature trail.

 At least one image of every letter in the alphabet appears in the book. While all are clear to see, there are some that require a little bit of imagination to discern. After reading this book, I spent a few minutes looking out the window at the trees budding out for the Spring. I found a few letters, it is necessary to keep your imagination in check a little bit, for it is easy to be a little too creative in spotting patterns when they are only hinted.

 A great primer for a scout hike or any other excursion in the wild, this book is a great way to prepare before you take your first steps.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Review of "Tuva or Bust!" By Ralph Leighton

Review of
Tuva or Bust! By Ralph Leighton
ISBN 0393029530

Three out of five stars

 I have read some of the books written by physicist Richard Feynman and he is an entertaining writer. A Nobel Laurette in physics, he was always willing to explore new things, from playing the bongo drums to doing artwork to attempting to raise his consciousness. He truly was a curious character, always willing to try new things.

 His most shining moment was when he served on the Rogers Commission investigating why the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. He single-handedly drove the commission to the truth by performing a single, public experiment with a glass of ice water and a gasket of the type that failed on the shuttle.

 This book is about a lengthy attempt by a group of scientists to visit the former country of Tannu Tuva. When he was young, Feynman collected stamps and he acquired some from Tannu Tuva. It was between Mongolia and the Soviet Union and disappeared after the Second World War, becoming another province of the USSR.

There is unfortunately not much of the impish Feynman in this book, it is a chronicle of navigating the bureaucracy of several countries as the group tries to find a way to visit Kyzl, the capital of Tannu Tuva. That makes this a dull book, it is generally impossible to make fighting with slow and intransigent government officials interesting.

 It is too bad that Richard Feynman succumbed to cancer before he was able to travel to Tannu Tuva. It would have been an adventure to read about. It is guaranteed that Feynman would have done something unusual and worthy of a classic adventure story.  

Review of "Betty Page Confidential," by Bunny Yeager

Review of

Betty Page Confidential, by Bunny Yeager ISBN 0312109407

Five out of five stars

 One of the most incredible statistics I have ever read is about Betty Page and is “As estimated half a million pictures were taken of her by almost every professional and amateur photographer in New York.” This was not over the course of a lifetime but done in less than a decade.  One universal comment about Page was that she was tireless in front of the camera, never losing that sexy glow, even after hours of being relentlessly photographed. She was a true professional that never lost her poise, even when naked or engaged in the production of media featuring bondage.

 She was truly the queen of the pinup, and this book describes her professional life, very little is known of what she did after she quit the model business. The photographer that worked with her most was Bunny Yeager and she took the photos in this book. From those images it is clear why Betty was so popular. Her body and skin were as perfect as it can get and her face and smile dazzle, even when she is holding a fishing rod. Her sensuality never wavers based on the amount of clothing she has on.

 Although Betty Page was a voluntary flame out in the area of fame, her legacy remains as one of the most beautiful women ever and one that was a true professional in front of the camera. Some of these photos had to have been taken after she spent hours on camera and yet she never seems to have wilted a bit.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Review of "Bettie Page: Queen of the Nile," by Jim Silke

Review of

Bettie Page: Queen of the Nile, by Jim Silke ISBN 1569714738

Five out of five stars

 To appreciate this graphic novel, you must know some history of the subject matter, specifically Bettie Page. In the fifties, she was the undisputed queen of the pinup image, often appearing semi-naked in now classic T & A style. She had both the face and the body for it. After falling into a hole of obscurity, she enjoyed a resurgence of interest in her later years, this book is one of the consequences.

 The story involves a machine that transports Bettie to another time and place on Earth, quite naturally when it acts on her, it strips her naked. She first lands in a primitive culture where she is a slave and then ends up in ancient Egypt in the time of Caesar and Cleopatra. Since she is packed with feminine charm and generally scantily dressed, Bettie competes for the power of royalty. In a twist of modernity, Bettie is assisted by a personal rocket pack and a powerful sidearm. The most amusing caption is when she gives Cleopatra a powerful spanking on her bare butt for trying to kill her.

 This is an odd, yet entertaining graphic novel. Bettie Page was the queen of the nude pinup and this story follows that tradition. There is bondage, nudity and an absurd story that provides the context and means for those features.

Review of "Pro Coach," by Joe Archibald

Review of

Pro Coach, by Joe Archibald

Four out of five stars

 The opening premise of this book shows that some aspects of sports have stayed constant for many decades. Walt Harper is a football coach and when the story opens, he is coaching college football powerhouse Southern Tech. His teams have been very successful over the years and Harper is often criticized that his success causes the best players to come to Southern Tech, the standard argument of success breeding success. Furthermore, some of his players openly admit that they are at Southern Tech to play football, classwork is generally secondary. Finally, there is a scandal where it is revealed that some of the players were given illegal assistance by wealthy alumni. All of this is familiar to modern followers of college football.

 Even though Harper is absolved of any blame in the scandal, he leaves his position as coach of Southern Tech. He then accepts the head coach position of the Boston Pilgrims professional football team in the AFL. The performance of the team has been dismal of late, so it is Harper’s chance to prove that he can mold a team from players not of the highest caliber.

 The story progresses in a predictable manner, after several initial problems, the team starts to solidify, and the Pilgrims begin winning. Their season ends when the book does, but there is genuine confidence when the members of the Pilgrim organization state the old sports refrain, “What till next year!”

 In typical Archibald style, the story is a solid one. However, there is no scene that one would be tempted to read several times in order to re-experience the tenseness and excitement of the moment. There is also no underlying theme of a deep moral to the story.