Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fun Home and She-Hulk

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. This time, reviews, of sorts, of Fun Home (Mariner/Houghton-Mifflin, 2007) and She-Hulk vol. 5 (Marvel, 2007).

You know how sometimes you just hear that there's a really great book or film or something out there, but you never actually hear what the art in question's about? Sometimes there is good reason for that. Fun Home is a memoir of growing up in rural Pennsylvania, and of course I heard all of the praise and commendations heaped upon it (Book of the Year in Time, you know), but not one word about its subject or content. Well, until some bluenose students at a university in Utah got their panties in a twist about a sex scene, anyway. I think that's the way it should be. Fun Home is a remarkable book that evokes everything from F. Scott Fiztgerald to James Joyce as it tells its incredibly moving story, and Alison Bechdel completely pulls you in with her narrative style, occasionally telling of the same incidents in different ways as they fit each chapter's flow. It's a very effective and very wonderful book, highly recommended.

Well, this is the fifth and final collection of Dan Slott's three-year run writing She-Hulk, and it is the least entertaining of the five, but still very worthwhile and very clever. I was disappointed in it because the earlier editions felt for the most part like they existed, happily, in a nebulous non-continuity, where knowing the ramifications of Marvel's soap-like universe was not essential to understand the subplots that drive the story. Having some idea of what came before has always been part of this iteration of She-Hulk's winking charm, and in fact, a character gets out of a scrape in this volume specifically because he remembers old Bill Mantlo plots from late '70s Marvel black and white magazines.

But while Slott's She-Hulk started as a more reader-friendly, unique book in its own little corner of the shared universe, I suppose its low sales prompted Marvel to start incorporating it into their line-wide changes with constant "everything will change!" events. Since I couldn't care less about the fallout from Civil War or World War Hulk or whatever, this didn't feel like a book that wanted me to read it anymore. Although there is an amusing and well-timed conversation about Marvel's reliance on double-page establishing shots in expensive comics, and how Kirby could have done the same in a single panel, which was an unexpected surprise. When a character complains that he doesn't appreciate spending 27 cents of a $3 comic just to be told that a Helicarrier is big, you can't help but agree. Recommended for Marvel fans.

(Originally posted October 22, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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