What I Read In March 2015

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As you can see, I read a lot of comic books in March. I also decided this month that rather than reading only books by women this year, I’d read mostly books by women. My main focus in comic books has been Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, begun in 2000 to give new readers a chance to get started without needing all the continuity from decades of stories in the main Marvel universe. So I’ve been reading those in order. I also started reading Brian K. Vaughan’s amazing series Saga, and G. Willow Wilson’s wonderful Ms. Marvel, which features a Muslim-American teenage girl as its protagonist. On the book side, I read Linda Barry’s excellent One Hundred Demons; In The Land Of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent; a collection of photos of Muhammad Ali from the Magnum library; Sylvia Plath’s Ariel; and Blessed Are The Dead, the third book in Malla Nunn’s detective series set in 1950s South Africa. Oh, and a fabulous book by Chris Taylor called How Star Wars Conquered The Universe.

Capsule Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy

Nova_1_(1976) Guardians Of The Galaxy was spectacular. I got into comics in ’77 or ’78, and the first comic I ever loved was Nova. My cousin Todd Jacquot was into Nova, and I was into whatever Todd was into, so I read Nova, too.

Nova was my Spider-Man; a kid I could relate to who suddenly gets superpowers and has to figure out how to use them and what to use them for.

Nova himself isn’t in Guardians, but the Nova Corps is, and so are many of the cosmic races and entities that swept me into the Marvel Universe when I was growing up. Guardians is extremely well written, well acted, well directed, and beautiful to look at. Highly recommended.

POEM: Spring Robins

Listen to this poem using the player above.

Spring Robins

I’ve been seeing robins everywhere this season
on the lawn when I leave for work
outside my window at the office
in the yard while I’m playing with the kids

they wander to and fro, looking lost and confused
and who can blame them — it’s still early days
prey is scarce and the bright red gives them away
before they can pounce

I think the main problem, though, is that
they’re longing for Batman
he’d only choose one of them anyway
who ever heard of Batman and the Robins?

the warm weather always brings them out
once it’s clement enough for short shorts
and tights, they don their masks and capes
and head out in search of crime

do you think Batman and Robin were dating
like the Comics Code people claimed?
I don’t — they were too far apart in age, and
Robin was in great shape, he didn’t need to settle

for a much older man with obvious identity issues
that said, Dick did agree to let Bruce
dress him in that ridiculous outfit
he should have been twirling a baton

not swinging punches into the jaws of
painted evildoers and crazies
you don’t keep your boyish good looks
being eaten by a shark or buried alive

if you see a Robin, don’t feed him
you’ll only encourage him to come back
before you know it he’ll be on your porch
looking glum and asking if you’ve seen the Batmobile

Book Review: Joe Sacco’s Palestine

Journalist and comic book artist Joe Sacco has been rightly praised for this intense account of his time in the Palestinian territories during the first Intifada. Sacco decided from the start to tell the Palestinian side of the story — not to aim for the false balance of much of modern journalism. His graphic novel is primarily a series of interviews with Palestinians, some arranged in advance and some on the spur of the moment.

If you enjoyed Art Spiegelman’s MAUS books, you’ll probably like Sacco’s work.

Highly recommended.

Book Review: Will Eisner’s Contract With God Trilogy

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this collection, which gathers together Eisner’s three graphic novels about the mythic Dropsie Avenue, a street in New York patterned after Eisner’s own childhood neighborhood. I’d never read any of Eisner’s work, famous as he is, and I mostly thought of him as the creator of The Spirit, a comic book hero.

This trilogy, though, is both an autobiography of sorts for Eisner and a biography of a street in New York City. The three books share an attention to detail combined with an epic sweep of history. Eisner explores religion, the meaning of life, aging, poverty, immigration, racial and ethnic relations, and the development of urban centers with a keenly observant — if not objective — eye.

The black-and-white illustrations are perfect for the stories. The drawing has a raggedly realistic style that catches every piece of cracked plaster, every shadowed face, every trick of the light.

Recommended.

Book review: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation

This brilliant graphic novel tells the unvarnished story of the development and amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The book is no hagiography of the document or its authors. Hennessey and McConnell point out the flaws in the Constitution and its unfortunate application to restrict the rights of many Americans.

In total, though, this book, like the best history books, inspires both an appreciation for past events and a desire to improve conditions going forward. Hennessy and McConnell are to be commended for furthering the cause of Constitutional literacy. Get this for every middle- and high-school student you know, and get a copy for yourself, too.

Highly recommended.