Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Adventures of Tintin Series: Before Nathan Drake, Lara Croft, and Even Indian Jones, There Was Tintin!

A Review By: Amelia
One of many comic covers
Tintin is a huge part of comic history so it’s always a shock to me when people have no idea who he is! I mean, it’s Tintin! He’s got red hair and a little white dog named Snowy. He’s had comics, and radio shows, and a cartoon, and a Steven Spielberg movie! He’s iconic and highly entertaining. Recently I read every single Tintin comic there is so I’m here to review it today and convince the rest of you to go and read every single Tintin comic there is!

Now, I’ve known about Tintin since I was a kid as I watched the cartoon series that YTV aired during the day in the 1990s, but if you’re not privy to the knowledge of who the little red-headed, dot-eyed guy is, allow me to fill you in.

Tintin is the ultimate adventurer. The character is an ambitious, young, globetrotting reporter who is always ends up as part of the story he’s attempting to cover. He’s surrounded by a cast of flamboyant, colorful characters—most notably his faithful dog Snowy—who join him on his many adventures as he tears across the globe fighting corrupt gangsters to smugglers to kidnappers to even ending up on the Moon in a couple of issues!

Georges Prosper Remi, known more commonly by the pen name Hergé, was a Belgian cartoonist best known for The Adventures of Tintin series, which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century! He also wrote Quick & Flupke and Jo, Zette and Jocko. His works have been widely acclaimed but have also been criticised for instances of anti-Semitism and racism (Tintin’s creation dates back to 1929). Despite this though, Hergé remains a strong influence on the comic medium, particularly in Europe.

Aside from Tintin, there’s five other main characters. There’s the bumbling Thompson and Thomson detectives that rush in and end up hurt in ever ridiculous slapstick comedy kind of ways. There’s Professor Calculus who invents things and is mostly deaf and gets into trouble for both those reasons. There’s Captain Haddock who’s a crusty old sailor full of ridiculous insults and the finest whiskey (provided he hasn’t gotten hurt and dropped it); and, of course, my favourite character: Snowy the dog. He’s a small, white dog that loyally follows Tintin everywhere the adventure takes him and occasionally has a few hilarious inner monologue moments! Honestly, the funniest bits throughout the whole series were when Snowy got drunk because Haddock sloshed his booze on the ground!

The art style all through Tintin (excluding the very first one) is the distinct and consistently adorable style that Hergé created: the ligne claire style. It’s colourful, it’s simple, everyone has dot eyes and they see stars when they get hit! What’s not to love about all that? Hergé was also a master of making his comics emulate movie scenes by implying camera movement. He also went big or went home (so to speak) by making each panel a full body shot of the characters and showing action as it played out. As a whole, the art style is simplistic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also amazingly thought out! The ligne claire style is emulated by artists all over the world because of Hergé!

My one criticism with the series is that some of the drawings are offensive. Tintin is the product of a gone-by era and it’s obvious in Tintin in the Congo and Tintin in America. There might be others but those two immediately come to mind as the most racist as far as the portrayal of people of colour goes. But, taken in stride, it’s still highly enjoyable. I think, much like reading Gone With the Wind, you have to realize it was written in a different time and adjust your mind set to that. Of course if you’d prefer to skip right over those issues there’s still a tonne to choose from.

My final thoughts on The Adventures of Tintin are that they are a very entertaining reads and I highly suggest them! It’s colourful and fun to look at, the characters are as flamboyant and colourful as the art, and each comic’s frantic pace is sure to please those looking for a thrilling story that’s also filled to the brim with slapstick comedy.
By far my favourite moment!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Company Man: Steampunk-y, Sci-Fi-y, Crime Noir-y, Goodness!

A Review By: Amelia
I love steampunk. I just love it. It’s a great world/style to muck about in! It takes the best parts of Victorian society and adds technological advances that might have happened and that’s super fascinating for me because I love alternate histories! The Company Man isn’t quite steampunk, but it is just enough for me to have jumped on his book without a second thought.

The McNaughton Corporation is a corporation so large, so groundbreaking, so extraordinary, it is the apex of American industry. They supplied weapons for the great war, built massive airships, created a shining metropolis from the fishing wharfs where the Union skulks all the way to the sky high buildings where CEOs play their business games. But something is wrong in the city. One day a subway car pulls into a station with eleven dead bodies inside. It had left the last station four minutes ago and each person lay butchered like they never saw it coming. Worst of all, all eleven were Union. Cyril Hayes, a semi-washed up, mostly addicted detective must fix it. There is a dark secret behind the inventions of McNaughton and with a war brewing between the executives and the workers. Caught between the union and the company, between the police and the victims, Hayes must uncover the mystery before the whole city burns.

This isn’t the first Robert Jackson Bennett book I’ve reviewed. Devotees of my reviews will remember my American Elsewhere one (which was so super hard for me to write because it was such a complex book and I was trying not to give anything away). The Company Man is his second full length novel and was nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award as well as an Edgar Award. I said it in the last review and I’ll say it again here: Bennett is a master of speculative fiction!

The main character of The Company Man is Cyril Hayes and boy is he messed up! He suffers from a pseudo-physic condition that leaves him more or less crippled when it comes on and has left him addicted to any pain killers he can get his hands on. He works for McNaughton as a kind of internal affairs officer and when he’s put in charge of the mass murder in the subways his life only gets harder and more messed up. He’s not really a hero or an anti-hero, just a guy trying to do his job because he has too. That changes a little near the end of the book (but I’ll stop myself there to keep from spoiling anything) but mostly it’s just a guy trying to get through his life.

The shining light of this story is definitely the locations in this steampunk story. The huge shining city of Evesden is so spectacularly detailed: there’s not a scene that doesn’t go in the story where all the intricacies are described or noted upon. There’s giant airships, underground trolleys, dirty slums, and a shining downtown. There’s underground machines that only a sixth sense can feel and secrets hidden just below the gleaming facade. All in all, it’s a setting that isn’t seen every often and won’t soon be forgotten!

The Company Man is such an interesting mash-up of genres. It’s steampunk, sci-fi with crime noir and mystery thriller all rolled up into one! The characters progress the story nicely and the location is unique and original. It’s truly a joy to read.

My final thoughts on The Company Man are that it’s a great read! It was a little slow to get going but the finale more than enough makes up for that because Bennett is amazing at ending his books with unexpected twists and serious action. Honestly, the last hundred pages of this book had be wishing there were a thousand more I could read about this universe!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

The Flute Player: Apache Legend Lives Again

A Review By: Amelia
I’ve recently deleved into Apache culture for a story I’m writing and I must say the folklore is fascinating (although I’m a fan of almost all worldly folklore). And because I’m such a softie underneath it all I was especially drawn to a particular love story called The Flute Player. Luckily, a beautifully illustrated children’s book was there to help me appreciate it to the fullest.

Put very simply, The Flute Player tells a tale of love and lose that the author, Lacapa Michael, remembers from his childhood.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Michael and his family moved to Whiteriver, Arizona, on the White Mountain Apache Reservation at the age of one. Michael became well known for writing and illustrating many children's books, including: The Mouse Couple, the award winning The Flute Player, and Antelope Woman. Years ago, Michael was instrumental in organizing the first Native American Arts and Crafts Festival in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, which continues today as an annual tradition. He was sought after nationally and internationally by storyteller's conventions to tell his wonderful native stories, many of which were based on his own experiences. He sadly passed away in 2005. Of her late husband's artistic vision, Kathy Lacapa says..."His philosophy was...'Always write about what you know, be true to your culture or region and never let go of your imagination'. "

In an effort to keep Michael's legacy alive, AAWM has established a scholarship fund in his name to benefit any resident within the greater White Mountains area wishing to pursue a higher education in the arts.

The story of The Flute Player is one heard through every civilization that’s ever existed: a love that couldn’t be. It’s essentially boy and girl meet, boy and girl share a special secret, boy and girl lose each other, but boy and girl live on into eternity. The Flute Player goes a little deeper though. Since it’s a folktale from the Apache culture it’s used as a way to explain a certain element of nature. This story uses the lovers to explain the sound that the wind makes while whistling through canyons.   

The art style is aesthetically so wonderful. The colours are vivid and the lines so perfectly straight. The art is also full of geometric patterns that draw the eye across the page. It’s just all quite lovely and definitely not something you see every day. It might not be something that’s immediately going to appeal to children but I’m a twenty-four year old, so what do I know about children right?

My final thoughts on The Flute Player are that it is such a great book. The artwork is beautiful and unique, the story comes from actual Apache mythology (and I loves me some mythology), and it really is such a simple and respectful way to teach others about a different culture. Definitely a child’s book worth looking into!