What we got here is a Mormon epic poem followed by four comics: DC, DC, DC, then Cypher which is also reviewed here.
045) Love and the Light: An Idyl of the Westland by Orson Ferguson Whitney, finished May 20
- So I did it! I actually read an Orson Whitney poem all the way through! And a 122-page one, at that! How about me?
Having spent so much time this year thinking about the premortal romance in Mormon literature, that element of Love and the Light is what struck me first. I have probably about a hundred lines on that subject which I copied out into a notebook, but here's a glimpse of what's here:
"Dawn of love?" Nay, thus the simple,
Reckoning not with things eternal...
All things great have preexistance,
And a claim on life hereafter.
Be this true of human being,
Why not true of human loving?
Whitney very clearly is teaching that God sealed our protagonists together before time began. Which I find unsettling, frankly. For all its lipservice to agency, this book doesn't seem to really accept it.
The foreword states that "The reader, while absorbing the romance, will partake necessarily of the instruction." And what instruction it is!
But let's start with the romance. The tale is told by the fated couple's mutual friend, but he is not much of a character. He's less that Walton in Frankenstein.
The two major characters (all characters are nameless) are a) Harvard-educated lad, erudite, wise, spiritual; a teacher; converts to Mormonism about halfway through and b) brilliant, atheistic, lovely; a teacher; slips deeper into antigodness; (SPOILER!) miraculous conversion near the end as she lies almost dying.
For the modern reader (the book is 91 years old --- I had to cut some pages to read the whole thing --- love my library), this book has much more to trouble that the agency question however. The concept of foreordained love drives the man to such a degree that he becomes a borderline stalker. I found him rather creepy in all honesty. He was so distasteful that I found myself rooting for her atheism, which I'm quite sure was not Whitney's intent. And her arguments were not the scary blasphemies the text asked to believe. Yes I live near Berkeley, but I think even to a less desensitized person, her arguments are not chillingly evil or whatever.
Then there is the jingoistic rahrah depiction of the wars in Cuba and the Philippines as the author accepts that America is on God's side in these battles. Check out this footnote:
81. Ingrate Rebellion (p. 108) The deliverance of the Philippine Islands from Spanish rule was followed by the rebellion of the Filipinos against the Americans, their deliverers, who succeeded in quelling the insurrection and restoring order.
Not a lot of nuanced internationalism there.
Having realized he'll never have his blaspheming love, he mourns the loss of she was supposed to be his eternally. Then, when she is forced to abandon her athiest ways after being converted by a remarkable vision, "a gift from God, he claimed her." What choice did she have? After falling at the feet of Jesus and begging entry to heaven she is told they "[turn] back all imperfection / With thy mate thou mayest pass . . . / But without him never---never!"
The book is written almost entirely in trochaic tetrameter which can get plodding if one reads too much at once but as a whole is fine.
Even though it made me laugh and gasp for the wrong reasons at times, there are moments of transcendence (cf). I liked, for instance, the first halves of Harvard Boy's talks before he, inevitable, took things too far.
This is classic Home Lit --- writing intended to instruct one in the ways of faith. I doubt it would work to that end with a Mormon audience, but as an artifact of an era, it is readable, enjoyable and just the right length to carry around for a few days.
044) Tales Of The Batman: Tim Sale by Tim Sale and some motley group of writers, finished May 17
- So everybody loves Tim Sale's take on Batman enough to take all his pre-Long Halloween work and bundle it all together for consumption.
I had read one of the stories before and it was pretty good. As are all the stories here. But the art really is good. I can see why Sale's so popular. The cover gallery in back was particularly nice.
about four days
043) Catwoman: The Dark End of the Street by Ed Brubaker et al, finished May 13
- Did you know? Apparently Selina Kyle decided to run for mayor of New York, then bit the big one. Tragically, Catwoman died shortly thereafter. I hadn't heard. Tragic. That they would both die, and so close to each other.
Or did they?
Of course not. Let's not kid ourselves.
This volume could be called Return of the Catwoman. It contains two stories. One starring a PI who runs her down but lets her go. The second chronicles her move from thief to vigilante. Although don't let the word "vigilante" put you in mind of, say, Batman. Catwoman is interested in protecting the otherwise neglected (eg streetwalkers), and she has no qualms about stealing to fund her efforts. So she's something different from the Boy Scout.
Anyway, nice book. I love tales told from nonsuper povs and I love the dancing art of Darwyn Cooke and Mike Allred. So I loved this book. Best of this batch of loans.
041) Aztek - the Ultimate Man by Grant Morrison), Mark Millar, Keith Champagne, Steven Harris; finished May 11
- Ended totally in media res with a thousand balls in the air. What a pisser. I mean---even with a silly costume and background the creative crew got me involved and caring about this guy and the plot thickened and thickened and then---
That was it. No more. Goodbye. End of story.
less than a week
040) Cypher by Brad Teare, finished May 7
- I've been emailing Mr Teare lately for an interview and so i finally got around to reading this book which I think I was vaguely aware of back in the Nineties but which I only really became attracted to last summer when I was working on my Survey of Mormon Comix.
Mr Teare tells me he has material enough for ten more Cypher volumes and I must say it's a shame their not in print. First, his woodcut (scratchboard?) style is great. Second, his composition style is topnotch. Third, his weirdness is so refreshing. It's not pointless weirdness which we see way too much of. Most things labeled surreal or postmodern or dada or whatever are grade-a crap. Not Cypher. He takes the weirdness of weird comics and turns it to something lovely, of good report, praiseworthy.
Someone get this man a publisher!
two days or about twenty-four hours
040) My Faith in Frankie by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, Marc Hempel, finished May 5
039) Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, finished May 5
038) Batman: R.I.P. by Grant Morrison et al, finished May 4
037) 1000 Steps To World Domination by Rob Osborne, finished May 4
036) 110 Per¢ by Tony Consiglio, finished May 4
035) Mendoza in Hollywood by Kage Baker, finished May Day
034) All Star Superman, Vol. 2 by Grant Morrison, and Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant, finished April 22
033) All Star Superman, Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison, and Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant, finished April 20
032) Bound on Earth by Angela Hallstrom, finished April 19
031) Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul by Grant Morrison and colleagues, finished April 18
030) Madman Atomic Comics Volume 2 by Mike Allred with Laura Allred, finished April 14
029) For a Good Time by K. Voss, finished April 11
028) The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, finished April 11
027) Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, finished April 6
026)Elegant Enigmas: The Art of Edward Gorey by Karen Wilkin (essay) and Edward Gorey (art), finished April 5
025) Owly: A Time to be Brave by Andy Runton, finished April 1
024) Blue Beetle: Endgame by John Rogers and Rafaele Albuquerque, finished March 29
023) Blue Beetle: Reach for the Stars by Rogers, Torres, Albuqerque; finished March 26
022) The Complete Peanuts 1967-1968 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 25
021) Blue Beetle: Road Trip by various, finished March 25
020) Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, finished March 18
019) Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, finished March 17
018) The Proviso by Moriah Jovan, finished March 16
017) An Ensign to the Nations: History of the Oakland State by Evelyn Candland, finished March 7
016) Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley, finished February 27
015) Batman: The Black Glove by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel and J.H. Williams III, finished February 23
014) The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston, finished February 22
013) Lex Luthor: Man of Steel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, finished February 19
012) Blue Beetle: Shellshocked by Keith Giffen and Cully Hammer, finished February 18
011) The Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, finished February 17
010) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, finished February 18
009) Superman: Red Son by MJR&M, finished February 11
008) The Best American Comics 2008 edited by Lynda Barry, finished February 9
007) The Blot by Tom Neely, finished February 6
006) JSA: Darkness Falls by Goyer, Johns, et al, finished January 28
005) The Road by Cormac McCarthy, finished January 24
004) Poor Sailor by Sammy Harkham, finished January 19
003) The Waitress was New by Dominique Fabre and translated by Jordan Stump, finished January 19
002) Stagger Lee by Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix, finished January 12?
001) The Arrival by Shaun Tan, finished January 8