COMICS: John Reviews “Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour” by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Time to switch things up!  Since this is the final installment of the excellent six-part slice-of-life-romantic-comedy/over-the-top-video-game-action (holy-crap-that’s-a-lot-of-hyphens) graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim, much of the usual introductory fare is unnecessary.  Instead of structuring my reviews as I normally do, I will invert the pyramid and start with my final summary:

  • For those who have been reading and enjoying the Scott Pilgrim series up to this point, rest assured: Volume 6 brings the story to an action-packed, emotionally satisfying conclusion.
  • For those who have been reading the Scott Pilgrim series and aren’t sure they like where the later volumes were heading, there’s a very good chance that Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour has brought back everything you loved about the early volumes and will make you a fan again.
  • For those who haven’t been reading the Scott Pilgrim series at all, it should be rather obvious that the last volume is hardly the place to start.  Go out and pick up Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, resting comfortably in the knowledge that the whole story is a well-crafted arc and the big ending doesn’t fall flat.

And now, the specifics! Continue reading

How I Became Who I Am: My Most Influential Reading List

If you’re a fan of the WITWAR extended network, you’ve probably seen the recent posts by occasional collaborators MediaMaven and Petpluto wherein they discuss the books that most heavily influenced their lives and shaped who they are today.  I’m nowhere near as well-read or as skilled at literary discussion as either of them, but I figured it would be fun to try my hand at this little exercise.  So, without further ado, here are the books that led me to become who I am today (in chronological order):

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OPERATION BACKLOG SLOG (BLOG): Episode 11

Today I’ve got another interesting assembly of media items for you: A neo-classic fairy tale, a comic odyssey into very weird territory, some side projects from favorite artists of mine, and a whole slew of Mega Man-related media.  Let’s dig in!

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OPERATION BACKLOG SLOG (BLOG): Episode 9 – The Steampunk Edition

Steampunk can be a difficult subgenre to wrap one’s head around. But since the mainstream world seems to be embracing it with movies like Sherlock Holmes and video games like Epic Mickey, I figured I would take a look at the things in my collection that might be representative of the genre. We’ve got Steampunk books, movies, music, video games, anime and comics to get through, so it’s time to fire up the boilers! Full steam ahead!

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OPERATION BACKLOG SLOG (BLOG): Episode 2

Today’s lineup includes a fascinating non-fiction book that I’m pretty sure the Leverage writers must’ve read and a new animated children’s classic:

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OPERATION BACKLOG SLOG (BLOG): Episode 1

Hey there, folks!  John here.  I’ve got some exciting news about the brand new project I’ve recently launched out of financial desperation and intellectual curiosity: Operation Backlog Slog.

Beginning December 1st, I swore off purchasing any new music, movies, TV shows, video games, graphic novels until I finish my existing stockpile of each.  I haven’t done a full inventory yet, but I’ve got at least 10 video games, 10 graphic novels (here, plus hundreds back home), two high-capacity DVD binders full of movies and TV shows and several albums to go through.  In order to keep me on track (and to offer some potentially helpful recommendations to you, dear reader), I’ll be posting some details about what I’ve consumed here on WITWAR.  Without further ado, here are the highlights from Operation Backlog Slog: Days 1-5! Continue reading

COMICS: John Reviews “Seaguy” by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart

Seaguy Volume 1

Seaguy Volume 1

WARNING: If you don’t like overwhelmingly positive reviews filled with glowing praise, stop reading right now.  Additionally, if you don’t like incredibly wonderful stories that are emotionally moving and chock-a-block with symbolism, Seaguy is a comic to avoid.

Did you ever get the feeling that everything worth doing has already been done?  That there are no more adventures to be had in this factory-farmed, mass-produced, flat-cultured world? Well, that’s how the titular hero feels every day in Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart’s Seaguy. Continue reading

COMICS: John Reviews “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell

Coraline: The Graphic Novel, illustrated by P. Craig Russell

Coraline: The Graphic Novel, illustrated by P. Craig Russell

Having already read and reviewed both the book and movie of Coraline, I figured I would complete the set and tackle the graphic novel adaptation illustrated by long-time Gaiman collaborator P. Craig Russell.  Since I’ve already covered the story in both prior reviews, this won’t take very long. Continue reading

MOVIES: John Reviews “Coraline 3-D”

Coraline: Presented in 3-D at select theaters

Coraline: Presented in 3-D at select theaters

Having just read the original children’s book, two of my cohorts (Nerdinanutshell and MediasMaven) and I took advantage of our work-free Presidents’ Day by seeing the new Coraline movie in 3-D.  While it may not have been the most faithful adaptation in history, Coraline captured the essence of Gaiman’s story admirably well, and is easily the greatest 3-D film ever produced (then again, what’s its competition?  Monster House? Friday the 13th, Part 3? Captain EO?)  I’ll do my best to review this version of the story on its own at first, bringing in the book comparisons later.

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BOOKS: John Reviews “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman

Coraline by Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by Dave McKean

Coraline by Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by Dave McKean

Since the motion picture adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning children’s book Coraline (with illustrations by Dave McKean) is taking critics and moviegoers across the country by storm, I decided to take a look at the source material before visiting the multiplex and donning a pair of 3-D glasses.  While I’m sure a few people on my afternoon bus thought it was a bit odd for a man in his twenties to be reading a children’s book, their judgments did not dissuade me in the slightest.  I found Coraline to be a fantastic piece of modern children’s fantasy similar to the works of Roald Dahl, told with a unique flair for both style and heart that Neil Gaiman is known for. 

Coraline is a story of a plucky,adventurous young girl named Coraline (whose name is constantly mispronounced “Caroline” by everyone but her parents)  with inattentive parents,  an active imagination and a love of exploring.  While exploring her family’s new house, she discovers a door to a world much like her own, but with several interesting differences.  A woman who looks mostly like her mother (but with black button eyes and long fingers) claims to be her “other mother”, and that she wants Coraline to live with her in the other world forever.  This other world is not as charming as it first appears, and Coraline must use all her wits and cunning to rescue her parents (and herself!) from the clutches of the other mother before the door to the real world closes forever. 

 There are a lot of things to like about Coraline, from its humble charm to its innocent sense of fantasy to its accessibility to burgeoning young readers.  Perhaps its most endearing trait, though, is how rewarding it is to read aloud.  Gaiman’s carefully measured pace and simple, yet descriptive choice of words seem designed to be read as a bedtime story.  I actually found myself intentionally slowing down as I read, in order to imagine a narrator with a warm, friendly voice and a British accent – like Liam Neeson or Stephen Fry – speaking the words aloud.  If ever there was a book I would recommend buying the audiobook version of, it would be Coraline (especially since the audiobook is lovingly read by Gaiman himself.)  I fully intend to keep a copy of this book until the day when I have a child to read to, and I’m sure I’ll get more out of it than s/he will. 

One of the interesting components of Coraline is its structure, specifically in the way that nearly every element from her mundane life is reflected in some manner in the other world.  This is done in more than just a Wizard of Oz “and you were there! and you!” sort of way, though, and has more in common with Shaun of the Dead‘s use of subtle repetition. Everything from the analogues of the characters to the significance of certain colors (like lime green) to overarching themes about the importance of love versus attention and excitement all factor in to the parallels between Coraline’s world and the other.  The ending is not entirely ambiguous, but it does make everything seem nearly as likely to be a flight of Coraline’s fancy as a recounting of actual events.  It makes subsequent readings interesting as well, since a reader may not notice every parallel detail during the first reading.

I suspect that Coraline is a book that feminists may enjoy as well, in large part because of how strong and independent Coraline proves herself to be.  She never needs to rely on anyone’s direct interference for help, and there is no token male character for her to be infatuated with.  Even her father has a minimal presence, both in the real world and in the other.  It’s pretty much Coraline’s show from start to finish, and she proves to be even more independent and self-reliant than most children her age.  When her parents are abucted, she carries on her normal life for two days and keeps the house’s daily affairs in order before going on her own to rescue them.  She is not without fear and doubt, however, and it is her courage and conviction that help her to overcome those fears and be the heroine she needs to be.

While I can’t say how well the story will translate to screen until I see it for myself, I believe that Coraline is proof that there is still a place in this web2.0 world for bedtime stories, and a fantastic charm that is entirely their own.  Gaiman wisely prefaces the book with a quote by G.K. Chesterton that sums up its charm perfectly: “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”