Thursday, January 18, 2007

They Came From the Library!

As if I didn't have enough comics to read at home right now, I went and got some stuff from the library. Some thoughts (potentially spoilery in nature):

Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol. 1: The Fantastic - I have a hard time forming any sort of opinion about this book, because honestly, I couldn't even be bothered to finish. It wasn't particularly bad or incompetently created or anything, or even vastly different from the traditional FF in any sort way that would actually matter. I just couldn't quite bring myself to care enough to actually read all the way through. I think it's the same problem I've had with almost every other Ultimate book I've read*, and that's the tendency to go back and "re-imagine" older stories and/or concepts that I think are still serviceable as is, even with the anachronisms intact. I know these books are certainly popular with their fans, and I think it's great that the exist for those people to enjoy, but I think I know for sure now that I'm not one of them. Call me old-fashioned, but I'm just an Earth-616 boy at heart. At least when they're not stuck in the middle of endless, soul-crushing, decidedly un-fun crossovers, anyway. Maybe I'm more of a "Fringes of 616, and also Marvel Adventures" boy at heart. Eh, semantics.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang - Wow, people just seem to love this book, don't they? Well - and here's where I lose what little Comics Bloggyverse Cred I've earned - I wish I could say I was one of them. It certainly starts off strong enough. I enjoyed the format of the three stories told in parallel - Jin dealing with what he considers the burden of his Chinese heritage and his desperate struggles to fit in at school, the fable of the Monkey King, and the twisted sitcom happenings with Danny and his cousin Chin-Kee (almost the worst Chinese stereotype since Mickey Rooney in "Breakfast at Tiffany's") - and the way each of the plotlines in some way reflected the happenings of the others. I think Yang had a lot of interesting things to say about racism, and how the most affecting form of it may come not from outsiders, but from within your own insecurities. And I think the art was really wonderful - cartoony enough to feel removed from the situation, but realistic enough to make everything seem real (if that makes sense at all). And in spite of myself, I actually found some of the Chin-Kee sequences to be truly laugh out loud funny (there's a great subtle visual gag involving Chin-Kee in math class... you really need to check it out), which I really hope was the intent, because otherwise I'm a very bad person.

The problem for me, though, came with the ending (Here's where we might get a little spoilery). I was sort of expecting the Monkey King and Danny/Chin-Kee storylines to have endings that would somehow relate to the end of Jin's story in some sort of metaphoric/parable fashion, but instead, they all merge into the very same storyline. This teenage coming-of-age-and- dealing-with-emotional/cultural-baggage story suddenly has all of these mystical, fantastic elements folded into it, and if we're to accept them literally, it removes me from the situation-as-I-understand-it and completely derails the entire story for me. One moment Jin and the girl he has a crush on are seeing "Sixteen Candles," and then later Jin is visited by the actual Monkey King? It would work for a Scott Pilgrim book, sure, but it's established very early on that that's the sort of world Scott Pilgrim occupies. Here, it just comes out of left field, almost as if it came from an entirely different book. I hate to say that this ruined the whole story for me, but it kind of did. And it's too bad, because before the last chapter, there's a lot about this book to like.



Still to come: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and the Spider-Man/Human Torch: I'm With Stupid digest (that oughtta make for a disjointed double feature, huh?). On top of all the other stuff I'm trying to read, too (Absolute New Frontier, Chuck Klosterman IV, Showcase Presents Shazam, Locas, Runaways Vol. 5, some book on Orson Welles I picked up at work today...). It's really hard to find the time to read all this stuff! If only I didn't have to work. But until the Powerball people get their act together and award me the damn prize already (whether I've remembered to buy a ticket or not), I still need to hold down a job. Grumble, grumble.




*Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #1 and a few select issues of Ultimate Marvel Team-Up excepted.
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