Book Reviews, books

Book Feels: Batman The Dark Knight Returns

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller is a seminal piece in comic book cannon. When it was published in 1986 it changed the landscape of the comic book superhero forever. With an aging Batman and a female Robin, both firsts for the series, The Dark Knight Returns explores the ethicality of vigilantism, mental illness and the dangers of obsessive behaviors. Most importantly it answers the age-old question that has been plaguing nerd-kind since the dawn of the superhero comic: who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?

This is the second book we are required to read in the graphic novel class I’m taking. I was super interested in diving into this as I am a fan of DC’s television shows (Batman and The Justice League were favorites as a child. The Flash and Supergirl are my adult faves). This is actually the first Batman comic I’ve ever read! And ho boy I was not dissapointed!

It takes place in a near dystopian Gotham. Batman has been retired for almost ten years, and crime is running rampant. After a series of disturbing news reports triggers Bruce Wayne’s post-traumatic stress disorder, his inner bat-demon thing awakens from its dark slumber and returns to reap vengeance upon Gotham’s evildoers. Batman takes on the likes of classic villains Two-Face and the Joker, as well as a gang of insane thugs known as “The Mutants” and eventually the Man of Steel himself. He does it all with the help of old friends like Commissioner Gordon and Oliver Queen, and new friends such as Carrie Kelley, the first female Robin.

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Miller took a well-known character and completely turned it on its head. Having Batman depicted as an older man is unique in the Batman universe. Having an aging Batman makes him seem more human, more vulnerable: which is a stark contrast from Superman who hasn’t seemed to age a day. There are scenes where Batman struggles to keep up with the villains as well as a scene where he worries he is having a heart attack. What kind of superhero worries about heart attacks?

Miller also raises questions about the morality of Batman’s actions. Is fighting crime outside of the law actually helpful, or does it do more harm than good? Does Batman create just as much crime as he tries to stop? Never before has Batman’s actions been so harshly called into question.

I enjoyed reading The Dark Knight Returns. Miller’s writing kept me engaged. I will admit, I liked the first part more than the other parts. The story was more riveting to me than the others with its underlying theme of mental illness and the question of whether Batman is responsible for enabling criminals such as Two-Face. I also enjoyed the last part, because who doesn’t love seeing Batman and Superman duke it out?

SPOILERS: THEY DUKE IT OUT

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I didn’t really like Miller’s art style though. It was not very aesthetically pleasing to me: the small eyes and the big lips freaked me just a little bit. I also didn’t care for Lynn Varley’s coloring. It looked faded at times, like it didn’t print right or something. I don’t know if it was a problem with the printing process or if that was Varley wanted to do but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Huge lips aside, I really enjoyed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and would be interested in reading Miller’s other Batman novels.

books

Book Feels: Maus by Art Spiegelman

I am taking a class on graphic novels in school and Maus, by Art Spiegelman is one of the required readings. And wow. Just wow.

I can see why this won a Pulitzer Prize. The art is fantastic. Spiegelman was able to portray so much emotion in the anthropomorphized characters so well. There are panels that take your breath away and leave you horrified all in one.

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I can also see why it took almost a decade to complete.

I will admit it was not an easy read. I was often uncomfortable and would have to sit the book down for brief periods of time before beginning again. The story of Spiegelman’s father Vladek is filled with strife sprinkled with small victories. And Spiegelman doesn’t sugar coat anything: you see a child get his skull bashed in and people burning alive.

My favorite parts were the scenes that showed Spiegelman and his father and their relationship with each other. This book is as much about their relationship as it is about the Holocaust. Maybe even more so.

Vladek, as much of an anal-retentive asshole as he was in his elder years, had his moments. He was an interesting, very multi-faceted character and narrator that made you want to slap him one minute (don’t be racist, dude) and hug him the next. The different facets of his character, from the crotchety old fart, to the loving husband, to the man hellbent on surviving no matter the cost, all made his character so much more real, so much more human.

There is a picture of Vladek towards the end of the story that further drives the point home that this was a real human being with thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears. That is what this story is about. For even though the characters are animals, Maus is a very, very human story.

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Vladek Spiegelman

books

Book Feels: Soundless by Richelle Mead

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Soundless is about Fei, a young woman who lives in a village high up in the mountains of China. And in this village, everyone is deaf. Everyone. And they have been that way for generations. Recently people have started going blind, which as you can imagine for a people who can’t hear, not being able to see is pretty detrimental. When Fei’s own sister starts going blind she decides to do something about it.

I first found out about this book after watching an unboxing of Owlcrate on YouTube. It sounded really interesting. I finally checked it out from the library last week and I was not disappointed. I really enjoyed this read. I have never read any of Mead’s stuff before so now I’m interested to pick up Vampire Academy.

The concept is super unique and you can tell Mead did her research with both the effects of hearing loss and Chinese mythology.

It was fascinating seeing Fei come to terms with regaining her hearing after generations of her people living in silence. I liked that she couldn’t magically understand people when they used a spoken language. That was a really nice touch that made it much more realistic.

I feel like the romance was a bit forced at times and was a tad bit unnecessary. Like, it was there but it didn’t need to be there.

I really liked the inn scene. I think the characters that Fei and Li meet are SUPER interesting and I wish they had more screen time (page time?). Like, Mei is super cool. I love that she learned sign language simply because she loves to learn languages. That’s so cool! I admire people who have the dedication to learn another language.

I also want to learn more about her father. He seemed like a really interesting dude for a character that is basically just there. In the background. Not really doing anything… Ok… he doesn’t SOUND like an interesting character but TRUST me; he’s cool.

And Fei just straight up painting an EXACT replica of the broken vase in such a short period of time was freakin’ awesome. Like, Mei and her father were ready to ding dong ditch and Fei was like “Don’t worry – I got this.”

I am ALL FOR using non-survival skills to save the day.

I think my favorite part of that whole chapter though was when Fei hears music for the first time. It was a pretty amazing moment and it got me right in the feels.

I hope that there will be a sequel. I want to know what happens next. What will the Emperor do now that he doesn’t have a steady supply of silver? What does being bound to a Pixiu entail? Will Fei learn how to speak verbally? I want to know more about Mei and her father. GIVE ME MOAR.

Here is a link to Soundless on Amazon.com if you guys are interested in reading it for yourselves!