Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade A Review

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Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello combine to create the The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade, the prequel to Miller’s acclaimed series The Dark Knight Returns. In this gritty and dark tale, Batman exists as an aging hero looking to get out of the game. Like in The Dark Knight Returns, he recognizes that age is getting to him and that Father Time wins every time. Starting with the incarceration of The Joker and ending with an ambiguous shot of the villain’s haunting face, the authors portray a world beyond hope. Millionaires are lured into giving up their fortunes for Poison Ivy’s love and Batman’s heir apparent Jason seems to operate under an alternate moral code than his trainer.

In the end, this is a story about morals. If the Joker can convince fellow criminal convicts to rip their eyes out and consume their fingers, do we care? Do we sense the moral fracture afoot or do we move on and ignore the cruel truth of crime? In terms of Batman, can Bruce Wayne give up his crawling through the night much like his lady love Selina Kyle has done? If so, will Jason work out, or will his lack of a code and subsequent inability to embrace the fine line between becoming a hero that everyone loves or a villain that everyone hates do him in? Drawn with gaps, left with holes of ambiguity, one feels the pain, cringes, and the authors leave you wanting, waiting for that moment when Bruce says enough, looking for the fate of Jason and Joker alike.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Steph Jagger's Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery A Book Review

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When I received Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery from Harper Wave and TLC Book Tours I was not quite sure what to expect. In short, Steph Jagger crafts a coming of age, find yourself narrative in which she forsakes the daily grind of middle class prosperity in search of greater meaning. Steph’s goal: ski around the world and hit four million feet. An arbitrary number, but everyone thought she was crazy—everyone. Yet, by year’s end, Jagger mistakenly eclipses a world record and finds herself in the process. What she finds arrives in the form of not a finished product, but one that is the adult outgrowth of joy, challenge, and curiosity. To get there, Jagger learns what many never learn: people are never complete and life is not about the finish line or the starting line even, but the journey down the path to fulfillment.

As she notes early on, Jagger wants to break out: “But what I didn’t know at the time was that becoming one’s best and being one’s bravest involves cracking open. It means shattering most, if not all of ourselves.”  Life has trapped her. She, like many in her age group, opts not to sit through it, but rather to hit the reboot button. While her story lacks the typical deep seeded physical and psychological pain that such journey pieces often follow, Jagger is able to paint the absolute ennui of young adulthood. The expectations of the house and job and marriage and kids—the roots—suffocate her and force her to find a new meaning. The fact that she chooses snow and lives a privileged life in doing so does not detract from her overall message. She wants to find something more and to help her reader understand what such a journey entails.

In detail, the narrative reads rather easily. Jagger has a positive, chirpy prose full of metaphor and pop culture references. She is honest, detailed when she needs to be, and while she hits on the personal details, she is quick to do so only to the extent to let her reader understand what is going on. She also knows this journey is her choice: there are not drugs, deaths, or heartaches forcing it on her: “No one was forcing any of this on me. I didn’t have the right to call any of it difficult.” But it was difficult, anything worth doing is, and Jagger allows the reader to understand this fact with each and every passing page.

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Naomi Novik's Black Powder War: A Book Review

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In Black Powder War, Naomi Novik builds upon the Temeraire series with her sequel to the Throne of Jade and Her Majesty’s Dragon. In this edition, the reader is once again treated to detailed, historical battles (only this time with dragons added in) as well as daring escapes. From a plot standpoint, Laurence receives word that he is to proceed to Turkey to receive three treasured dragon eggs. Due to a fire on their transport ship, the crew hires a guide and takes to an overland route. After encountering sandstorms and feral dragons, they land safely in Turkey only to discover that the crown’s funds have vanished, the ambassador murdered, and the dragon eggs ready but no longer promised to them.

As always, a waiting game commences, and this time Novik does her best to build tension while walking through the action. The team is basically imprisoned within the royal palace, and forced to scale walls and sneak out in hopes of finding information. The catalyst of their plight arrives in the form of Lien, the albino celestial dragon that has left China an exile and headed to France to aid Napoleon in order to spite Temeraire for killing her master. From Turkey, the crew finds themselves engaged in the battle of Jena and the mysterious absence of the British dragons. While most of the events remain true to history, Lien is credited with leading the French charge across Europe, revolutionizing both transportation and strategy. Thus Laurence and crew struggle to both victory and safety as the quest to both with a war and return home.