Reviews by eknapp
Promising crime novel sinks at the end.
A two-part novel about the weather in Minnesota, newsroom politics, a string of serial killings, and the death penalty.

Part One describes the murders, committed once each season and always during an extreme weather event. Tornado, ice storm, record-setting fog or heatwave, etc. We are introduced to Dixon Bell, a preternaturally gifted meteorologist, and Rick Beanblossom, a brilliant investigator and news producer. This was the good part of the book. Great characters. A crime story with a novel twist. An interesting look at TV news production from the inside.

Part One also serves as the author's love letter to the state of Minnesota. It's apparently beautiful, and crime is low, and the people are kind and proud and modest and industrious. The whole state is just really super, like Lake Wobegon but even better. Then Dixon Bell gets arrested.


Part Two, in which Bell is put on trial while Beanblossom tries to prove he's innocent, is riddled with plot holes. When another character confesses to the murders right in front of Beanblossom, why in hell would he keep that information to himself?? If Bell IS guilty...why?? He makes no sense as a serial killer. The maximum security prison in which Bell is housed is filled wall to wall with gentle, sympathetic guards and noble, self-sacrificing hero-prisoners. Ooookay. An execution is described in multi-page grotesque, loving detail. TWICE. It reminded me of those anti-abortion billboards that basically go "Abortion is wrong because look at this picture of a happy fetus." Part Two is driven transparently by the author's agenda and the story suffers badly for it.


The writing is solid and the research is excellent, but after a good start The Weatherman runs off the rails.
Excellent beginning, adequate finish.
Kepler is a centuries-old being who wears people like suits, moving from skin to skin by touch and leaving confused amnesiacs in his wake. He's hunted by an organization dedicated to the destruction of his kind.

Touch works hard to explore how perception changes when one has worn numerous different bodies, male and female, old and young, fat and thin, weak and strong. It's aware of aches and failings and capabilities that real humans would generally take for granted; slight near-sightedness, posture-related pain, etc. And that is exactly what I want from this particular sub-genre. It's Touch's best feature.

The ending was a bit limp. Predictable. Overall a five-star core with a 3-star finish.
Lost in (Interdimensional) Space
Scientists, a couple of kids, a smarmy bureaucrat and his toady bounce from dimension to dimension due to a busted science thingy, searching for The Way Home.

Black Science is absolutely beautiful to look at, full of heavy, intense blacks and oranges and purples. Really striking.

The plot's pretty generic. There's a brief mystery regarding who sabotaged the science thingy, but it turns out to be exactly who you'd expect. Each dimension is home to another hostile anthropomorphized animal species. Fish people, frog people, bird people, gorilla people. Not awful but not particularly interesting.
A very good adult Superman story.
A relatively mature, text-only version of the Superman origin story. I dislike superheroes and was surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

De Haven attempts to bring the canonical characters into the real world as much as possible. Teenaged Clark Kent is wholly different and doesn't know why, and as a result is tragically, acutely lonely. I mean, how could he NOT be? He gets laid a couple times and then wallows in old-timey Protestant guilt for the rest of the book. I can't imagine a better take on a character as ridiculous as Superman.

Instead of a mad scientist Lex Luthor is a rabidly ambitious politician, industrialist, and gangster with a knack for finding talent and inspiring loyalty.

Lois Lane (man, I never realized how prevalent alliteration is in superhero comics) is...kind of an asshole actually. But maybe she'd HAVE to be to have any chance as a woman reporter in the 1930s.

It struck me that both Kent and Luthor were depicted as unusually egalitarian, but for different reasons. The former simply had a good heart (of course), but Luthor was relentlessly practical and smart enough to see through the social bullshit. He had no problem using anyone with talent--regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, etc--and also no problem murdering them if that was expedient.

The book suffers some due to the constraints of the iconic personas, but the characters are updated wonderfully, the plot is heavy enough without getting bogged down, and the setting is reads like the author came of age in the '30s.
A dense, clever examination.
Scott McCloud explores the form, history, and potential of comics for consumers and creators, speaking to the reader via a flexible, clever cartoon avatar.

I was expecting something both intelligent and fluffy, but WOW, is this dense. There's a lot (by my standards) of art history, comics history, even some anthropological history. McCloud covers an abundance of fundamental concepts and illustrates them beautifully.

Concepts and definitions:

Author's working definition of "comics": juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence.

The masking effect--use of simple, cartoonistic characters against more realistic backgrounds, allowing readers to "mask" themselves in a character and safely enter a sensually stimulating world.

Universality of cartoon images--A photoreal picture represents a specific person; a cartoonish picture represents all. The more cartoony a face, the more people it describes.

Closure--The phenomenon of observing parts but perceiving the whole (eg object permanence); the phenomenon of filling in the space between panels to connect the panels.

Six kinds of panel transitions: 1. moment-to-moment 2. action-to-action 3. subject-to-subject 4. scene-to-scene. 5. aspect-to-aspect 6. non-sequitur.

Bleeds--When a panel runs off the edge of the page. Expands time, conveys timelessness.

Polyptych--A moving figure or figures imposed over a continuous background.

"The longer any form of art or communication exists, the more symbols it accumulates. The modern comic is a young language but it already has an impressive array of recognizable symbols. Stink lines, x-eyes, sweat beads"

"The art form of comics is many centuries old, but it's perceived as a recent invention and suffers the curse of all new media:the curse of being judged by the standards of the old."

Types of picture/word combinations:
1) Word specific--Text-heavy, pictures are merely accents.
2) Picture specific--Illustrations tell the story; words merely add a soundtrack.
3) Duo specific--The words and illustrations are redundant.
4) Additive--Words and pictures amplify one another.
5) Parallel--The words and pictures are not obviously related.
6) Montage--Words are part of the picture.
7) Interdependent--The most common type. Words and pics go hand in hand to convey what would be impossible alone.