Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire, Vols. 1-3 – Naoki Serizawa. This has all the elements needed for a good story – an isolated boarding school, an unexplained zombie outbreak, a cover-up, Chris Redfield…. Sadly, despite being supremely violent (yay!) and unnecessarily sexualised (boo!), this series is just bad. The plot needs a lot of hand-waving to hold together, the characters are paper-thin (no pun intended), and the writing seems to be aimed at the reading comprehension of an eight year old. There are two more volumes of this dreck, but luckily my local library system hasn’t bought them (ordinarily this would annoy me – order the whole series, damnit! – but they get a pass this time).
Hitler in Cartoons – Tony Husband (ed.). The introduction to Hitler in Cartoons is bombastic, to put it mildly, but the collection as a whole is so interesting that I can mostly overlook that weird misstep. Of particular note are the German cartoonists who lambasted Hitler during his rise to power. Also, did you know it was illegal to name your pet Adolf in Nazi Germany? Bonkers. A fascinating look at how Hitler was portrayed in Allied-friendly publications during his time in power (and I would absolutely love a companion volume that shows how he was shown by the pro-Axis press).
Paula Rego: Jane Eyre – Paula Rego & Charlotte Bronte. Paul Rego’s disturbing artwork deftly captures the darkness at the heart of Jane Eyre and refuses to let our imaginations prettify it. There are no Hollywood beauties here. (PS, I really liked it.)
The Lubetkin Legacy – Marina Lewycka. Told from the varying perspectives of Berthold (Bertie) and Violet, The Lubetkin Legacy is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes distressing, oftentimes rambling look at the modern welfare state in Britain. There’s a lot to enjoy about this book – Lewycka’s trademark humour had me chuckling out loud more than once – but there’s a lot to struggle with as well. Bertie is a thoroughly unsympathetic character who feels entitled to everything and learns nothing, and it’s hard to read a novel with a character like that at its centre. Meanwhile, Violet was much more likeable but painfully naive and, to be honest, her sections added little to the main narrative of what is inescapably Bertie’s story. A funny read, but a frustrating one.
The Adventures of John Blake, Volume 1: Mystery of the Ghost Ship – Philip Pullman and Fred Fordham. An original graphic novel aimed at kids, The Adventures of John Blake follows the crew of the Mary Alice, a ship lost in time. Crewed by men from disparate centuries, the Mary Alice rescues a young Australia from drowning. As they try to get her home, they are tracked by a man who wishes them ill. A solid read, well paced and well plotted, with some nice sci-fi touches, but it didn’t really light my fire.
Little Women (BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisation) – Louisa May Alcott. A charming full-cast audio adaptation that tells each of its chapters from the perspective of a different character, to great effect. My heart will never stop melting when Professor Bhaer shows up at the end (I don’t care if he’s a paternalistic prig).
The Arab of the Future, Volume 1: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984 – Riad Sattouf. A thoroughly immersive, faintly horrifying, memoir. Riad’s world is turned upside down when his father decides to move first to Libya and then on to Syria, both a shock to a boy born in France. Through his eyes we see day-to-day life under two regimes that promised much but delivered little. The art and colouring were fantastic, and the writing strong, but there were two sticking points for me. 1) Riad’s father is an unlikable combination of self-conceited and self-centered. We see nothing to explain why his Franch wife stays with him and moves to less than ideal places (to put it mildly) to please him. 2) The story is told from Riad’s perspective but it’s hard to overlook the unlikelihood of a small child having such detailed memories. Despite all of this, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Stars Above – Marissa Meyer. Although the stories in this volume don’t really add much to the world of The Lunar Chronicles, they’re immensely happy-making if you’re a fan. The strongest story by far is ‘The Little Android’, a reinvention of ‘The Little Mermaid’, while the final story, ‘Something Old, Something New’ is easily the weakest (too sentimental by half). Overall, an excellent read for fans of the series.
Goodnight Punpun, Volume 1 – Inio Asano. I wanted to like this, I really did. I tried to keep pushing forward, telling myself that at some point I’d start to enjoy the story more but it just never happened. So I returned the other two volumes to the library without reading them. Pun Pun is a schoolboy with an unhappy home life and an obsessive crush on a (worryingly intense) girl at his school. For some reason, he’s a bird. He’s also, to use Scottish parlance, a wee bam that I had absolutely no interest in reading about.
The Interview – Manuele Fior. Another disappointment. Set in 2048, we follow Raniero, a middle-aged psychologist who thinks it entirely appropriate to sleep with a patient despite, you know, ethics, and the fact that he’s married. Dora, the patient, floats around looking pretty and implying Raniero is special enough for her to commit to one man, something her futuristic ‘religion’ is not into because in the future we will all be vaguely telepathic and think that ‘communal’ love is the best. And somewhere in there there are aliens. Dreadful story, dreadful sci-fi, excellent artwork.
Printer’s Devil Court – Susan Hill. Meh. I think I might have enjoyed this more if I’d read it rather than listened to it as the narrator was not for me. It probably still would have been a bit underwhelming being that it’s basically a gothic horror story that could have been written during the 19th century rather than the 21st (which can be fine but can also be distinctly not terrifying to a modern audience, you know?).
Superman/Wonder Woman, Volume 5: A Savage End – Peter J. Tomasi and Doug Mahnke. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. This whole series has been a waste of time and energy but volume five takes the cake by being a bunch of issues that are part of larger stories that we don’t get to see. Choppy is an understatement.