Book Reviews, Short Stories

Jirel of Joiry and the uncomfortable roots of feminist fantasy

Jirel of Joiry, an honorable, red-haired, female clone of Conan the Barbarian, could be considered the foundation for all ‘strong female characters’ in genre fiction today, but only in the most shallow sense of the term.

I appreciate that C.L. Moore broke ground in 1930s sword and sorcery, a hyper-masculine genre full of hyper-masculine (read: shitty) men, but any attempt to combat the intense sexism of the genre only goes as far: C.L. Moore was objectively a woman, and Jirel objectively a female character who sometimes swung a sword and killed things.

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Graphic Novels, Novels, Random

dendrobiblio’s Top 10 Reads of 2016

10. Stephen King’s the Dark Tower I : IV (1982 : 1997)

A somewhat difficult one to include, Stephen King’s writing, while always entertaining, is similarly always bothersome. The King-isms build and bug me. The Dark Tower series has been no different so far, with the Drawing of the Three and the Waste Lands, in particular, being hampered by bloated writing and awkward pacing. Wizard and Glass, the fourth of an eight-part series (including #4.5), and the last I read this year, was an absolutely engrossing and addictive fantasy yarn. The horror and post-apocalyptic settings were mostly removed in favor of straight fantasy in an extended flashback story — which was worrisome — but Roland’s tale was so focused and wonderfully-told that it alone puts this series on the list. I hope 2017 lets me finish the the final four books.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Farewell to Fables, the smoldering mess of mostly bad ideas

This final Fables volume ended much more nicely than its sister series, Fairest, did. Like most of the Fables-verse, however, it’s still a mixed bag.

Half of this volume — an extra-long 150th issue numbering over 150 pages — is devoted to resolving the looming battle between sisters Snow and Rose, and the latter half is made up of short stories (1-5 pgs. each) giving farewells to as many of the cast as they could squeeze in.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Farewell to Fairest, the dumpster-fire of misogyny and naive political diatribes

series supervised by Bill Willingham

Bill Willingham’s Fables universe is incredibly addictive, yet only seems to make me grumpier and grumpier with every page.

The final Fairest arc follows in the footsteps of the two prior collections: The Return of the Maharaja (2013) and Cinderella: Of Men and Mice (2014), meaning it’s barely relevant to the universe set-up by Fables and even less relevant to the advertised purpose of the Fairest spin-off — i.e., “The women of Fables in a series all their own!”.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Marc Andreyko’s Fairest, vol. 4: Cinderella — Of Men and Mice (2014)

series supervised by Bill Willingham

This story arc in the Fables-verse illustrates too many of the issues inherent in the Willingham’s universe. To start, Fairest is a series meant to give character to the oft-underdeveloped women of Fables, and the advertising gives the suggestion they’re going for an outdated “Girl Power!” approach.

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Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman: Overture (2013 – 2015)

a limited series of six issues

It took nearly 20 years for Morpheus to return with a proper follow-up to his final farewell. Overture‘s is a six-issue tale bridging the gap between issue one’s ambitious, faulty start and the present-day doings of Daniel. Just as well, Overture thematically follows in familiar footsteps to long-time readers, delivering a strong sense of closure for the mythos while answering many lingering questions (like, why exactly does Morpheus don that dorky helmet as battle-gear?).

The Dream Hunters (1999) provided a stunningly-beautiful fairy tale that just happened to feature Morpheus, and Endless Nights (2003) gave us a collection of mostly-cute short stories complementing the Endless’ original run rather than building upon it. Overture is more successful in connecting the loose threads that have hung over the series ever since we first spent those 72 years locked in an occultist’s basement. It’s both fitting as a conclusion, and a posthumous introduction for Morpheus’ maxiseries.

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