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Archive for the ‘Superhero’ Category

“The Time Lord has met many aliens, cyborgs, robots, and humans on his journeys through history and across the universe.”

DoctorWhoDoctor Who has clocked  almost eight hundred episodes over thirty-three seasons. If you add in the fact that the Doctor can travel to any time in history and any place in infinity, then it isn’t surprising that it can be a little difficult to keep all the characters straight. That is where the Doctor Who Character Encyclopedia comes in very handy. With more than two hundred entries from Abzorbaloff, the greedy shape shifting humanoid to the Zygons who met the fourth Doctor, it can’t claim to cover all of time and space, but it comes close.

November marked the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who–an extremely exciting event for Whovians. Those of us without BBC America on cable would have been left waiting for the Fiftieth Anniversary Special to come out on DVD except that, for the first time I have encountered, the Fiftieth Anniversary Special was kindly shown at movie theaters. Our closest movie theater showed it on IMax 3D on a Monday night, which is not my preferred format or time, but I had to go anyway. I didn’t dress up–unlike dozens of other Whovians young and old. They varied from around ten years old to well into their fifties or even sixties which is a very mixed fan base, but is not surprising for a show that started running before the moon landing and continues to attract fans.

The Doctor Who Character Encyclopedia is a well-organized book in which you can search for characters by name, or browse the Table of Contents where they are categorized by type such as “Alien,” “Companion,” “Cyborg,” or “Entity” with color coding matching their main entries. Each character gets a full page spread with a description, details about their origins, homeworld, which Doctors they met and how they fit into the stories. Sharp, bright photos, typical of Dorling Kindersley publishers clearly show the attributes of each character.

The BBC obviously saw publishing opportunity in the interest around the fiftieth anniversary and this is an official BBC publication. If this book is out, our library has other books of background for desperate Doctor Who fans, such as, Doctor Who: A History by Alan Kistler or Doctor Who Whology: The Official Miscellany, by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright.

The Doctor Who Character Encyclopedia is a must-read (or a must-browse) for Doctor Who fans. If you are not a fan and are wondering what all the fuss is about try my review of the TV series of Doctor Who and check out some of the series on DVD.

Check the WRL catalog for Doctor Who Character Encyclopedia.

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hawkeyeWhile watching the Avengers movie in the theater (I admit, twice), I was intrigued by the characters of Hawkeye and Black Widow. Not having much knowledge of the Avengers outside of Iron Man and Thor, I found it interesting that there were members of the team who did not possess any superpowers or special flying suits. Experience and training will only get you so far when facing a massive army of technologically superior aliens from another dimension. Hulk may smash, but normal humans should be running in the other direction while screaming.

As expected, when a movie piques the public’s interest in specific characters from a comic universe, new material often follows. I picked up a copy of the first volume of the new Hawkeye graphic novel series, titled Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon. The series covers Hawkeye’s life away from the Avengers, where he lives quietly as Clint Barton in a rather crummy apartment building. He is assisted in many of his exploits by Kate Bishop, who is a member of the Young Avengers, and had previously stepped in for Clint when he took some time off from the Avengers. She is an equal, if not better, bowman than Clint.

Unlike other human superheroes like Batman or Iron Man, Hawkeye isn’t angsty, and there is a lot of humor injected into his interactions, especially with Kate. He fights mainly with his bow and an array of sometimes ridiculous specialty arrows, a method which is used smartly against him by the authors in a humorous segment where he keeps firing random arrows with somewhat unbelievable abilities. He tries to live as normally as possible, enjoying rooftop BBQs with his neighbors, buying a used sports car, and practicing his archery, but generally finds ways to get himself in trouble much as he might try to avoid it. It seems once you are identified as a superhero, groups of ninjas can’t help but attack you.

This volume is a quick but fun read. Recommended for fans of the Marvel Universe and anyone who is tired of having perpetually disagreeable and tormented superheroes.

Search the catalog for Hawkeye

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superiorMany kids have a favorite superhero that they look up to. Twelve-year old Simon loves Superior, a Superman-like immortal superhero with x-ray vision, super hearing, and freeze breath, not to mention immense strength and the ability to fly. In short, he is a perfect physical being, quite unlike Simon himself. Previously a healthy and talented basketball player, Simon was struck down with multiple sclerosis, losing the ability to walk and suffering attacks that leave him barely able to speak. He slowly lost all his former friends except for one, Chris, who makes sure to come with Simon to the movies once a week. Other than his trips with Chris, Simon lives like a turtle tucked into his shell, saddened and frustrated by his physical helplessness.

One night, Simon is visited by a monkey named Ormon, who grants him his biggest wish and changes him into a real-live Superior. Ormon assures Simon that everything will be explained in a week. Simon quickly learns how to use the awesome power he has been granted and saves people, averts disasters, solves world food shortages, and more. He even gives the local bully, who missed no opportunity to torment him when he was in his wheelchair, a well-deserved scare. Compared to his previous life, everything seems perfect.

Of course, a fictional superhero can’t come to life without causing some issues. The actor who has portrayed Superior in all the movies finds his own life quite complicated by the sudden appearance of his powerful twin. And the media is desperate to question the world’s newest hero, especially Maddie Knox, who is even willing to put her life on the line to score the first interview. But why was Simon granted his wish by Ormon? Everyone knows that nothing is free, and being given such an immense gift must come at some cost to Simon. What will the boy be willing to give up in order to retain his powers and never again return to his wheelchair?

The dialog is believable and the characters are relatable, which is no small feat when you are depicting everyone from a 12-year-old boy to a magical space monkey. The artwork is dynamic, adeptly expressing every emotion from innocence to terror. I enjoyed the alternative take on the regular superhero motif, with the hero character being more of a device than a personality. Recommended to readers of graphic novels, especially, but not limited to, superhero titles.

Check the WRL catalog for Superior

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sharknifeIf there are graphic novel fans out there who really like Scott Pilgrim but would prefer a little less plot and a lot more fighting and jokes, this book was made for you. Sharknife, Stage First is a frenetic, fun, and sassy volume filled with game references, youth culture, eggroll-seeking monsters, and a fortune-cookie powered superhero. Any pretense of seriousness is immediately put to rest on the first page when a character breaks the fourth wall to introduce herself and the town she lives in.

Chieko Momuza is a self-described “spazz-banana living in a cyclone of hyper.” Her father Raymond owns a Chinese restaurant that had the misfortune of becoming THE place to be in town. Why is this unfortunate? Because formerly the hottest spot in town was a smoke shop owned by a man named Ombra. Occupation: gangster. Like any respectable bad guy, Ombra can’t pass up the opportunity for a revenge plot. In the spirit of the best James Bond villains, his plan is ridiculous, obsessive, and bizarre: he plants mechanical monsters into the walls of the restaurant that come alive when they smell food.

Fortunately, the Momuzas have a bus boy, Ceasar (sic), who turns into a powerful being named Sharknife when he consumes one of Chieko’s fortune cookies. He fights off the bad guys and Ombra sends more, better ones. That’s it, the whole of the plot. This is a fun story, folks, not a deep one. These fights, which take up most of the space in the volume, are what you are paying the price of admission for. Interspersed in the action are sly gaming homages such as health bars, power ups, and key combinations for special attacks.

The lettering for the sound effects reverberates throughout the art with each crash and hit performing the sound for you through movement and line energy. Characters even step (or are thrown) in front of the sounds, and the text occasionally layers on top of several panels, fully integrating into the noisy landscape.

This is certainly a fast read with the only disappointment coming at the end of the book when you run out of pages. Fortunately there is also another volume to consume.

Recommended for fans of Scott Pilgrim and other hyper-but-clever teen literature. Not recommended for anyone who would grit their teeth at hearing someone say “oh noes!”

Search the WRL catalog for Sharknife.

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Is it possible to get hooked on a book from reading only one page? Because I think that’s exactly what happened. The initial panel in this graphic novel was just perfect, moody reds and blues and exquisitely rendered people and a one-sentence narrative box that tied it all together.

So I turned the page and was reminded of Fight Club, both the book and the film. And then I turned the page again and was reminded of American Psycho, both the book and the film, and anyway by that point I knew I’d found a winner.

Wesley Gibson is a harmless loser. His boss yells at him each day at his boring office job; his girlfriend is having an affair with his best friend; his idea of excitement is choosing the wasabi mayonnaise over the plain.

Then one day a woman introduces herself to Wesley while he’s standing in line at a deli. She pulls a gun from her jacket, shoots a bunch of innocent bystanders, and informs Wesley that he’s heir apparent to a vacancy in a sinister global cabal of supervillains. Oh, and he’s really rich now.

Back in the 1980s, all of the world’s supervillains had banded together to fight against the superheroes. They succeeded. Now Wesley, after a bit of intensive training to desensitize himself to violence, is poised to become the world’s most talented assassin. There are no more superheroes to kill off, but there are plenty of supervillains to keep in line, and there’s no shortage of ordinary human beings to attack.

To state the excessively obvious, this is a violent book. Sex and nudity are relatively modest, but the physical action is extremely violent (though not as violent as the general worldview). Ethics and morality don’t enter the picture, not even in an “honor among thieves” sort of way. There is not a single admirable character in the book. The depraved sensibilities of the supervillains serve to illustrate some very ugly truths about humanity, but still, most readers enjoy a bit of moral growth or social responsibility in their fiction. This isn’t a book for everyone, but for those willing to engage in a bleak and barren dystopia, the story is electrifying, with tumultuous action, witty dialogue, and great character anti-development.

Check the WRL catalog for Wanted

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Dr. HorribleThere is something a bit meta about blogging about a DVD about blogging, but I’m doing it anyway. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was originally released as a series of three 15 minute webisodes created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy-fame) during the writers’ strike. It has now been released as a DVD and is definitely worth checking out. It features the acting and singing talents of Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, an aspiring super villain. He blogs (and sings) about his efforts to become a member of the Evil League of Evil, his nemesis Captain Hammer, played by Firefly’s Nathan Fillion, and his love for fellow laundromat user Penny.

Dr. Horrible’s current attempt to join the Evil League includes the creation of a Freeze Ray (“It’s not a Death Ray or an Ice Beam, that’s all Johnny Snow”) that will freeze time. When things don’t go quite as planned, word comes down from the Evil League that his application will be denied unless he kills someone.

Dr. Horrible is unbelievably funny, touching, heart-wrenching, and has catchy songs, too. The DVD features a sing-along commentary track and fan-created Evil League of Evil video applications which are, in some cases, just as funny as the blog they were inspired by.  Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from Dr. Horrible’s blog is to be careful what you say on your video blog, since both your nemesis and the police could be watching!

Check the WRL catalog for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

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identity_crisisIf, hypothetically, someone completely neglected to read comics in her childhood like she was supposed to, how would this person, now a grownup, become familiar with the superheroes?

Discuss.

I posed this entirely hypothetical question to a geek friend of mine, explaining that the reader, hypothetically, was intimidated by superhero books because she wasn’t familiar with the decades’ worth of backstory associated with each character. Where should the newbie begin?

“Uhm,” said my geek friend. “You should. Um. Start with… Er. Um.”

He was stumped, but rallied gamely a few days later by suggesting a graphic novel by Brad Meltzer. And though I (hypothetically) had never cared for Meltzer’s traditional thrillers, I found him to be quite engaging in Identity Crisis. (Which I read for no real reason; it’s not like there was a great big gaping hole in my knowledge, or anything like that.)

Identity Crisis features several superheroes of the DC variety. (This means that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are fair game, but not Spiderman, who is Marvel. To me this does not seem fair.) The spouse of one of the superheroes– I am not going to tell you which one– has been murdered. It’s a locked-room mystery, with no signs of entry or egress, no forensic evidence, and in fact no evidence of a crime at all, except for the bit about there being a dead body.

But the whodunnit bit was not the primary appeal. Instead I liked the story because I got to know and enjoy the characters. Meltzer draws them with depth, metaphorically, and artist Rags Morales draws them with grace, literally. Having read the book, I am proud to announce that I have formed my first tentative, independently-reached conclusion about a superhero, to wit: I think Green Arrow is kind of cool and funny, and if can recommend some other Green Arrow books, I’m listening.

There are some violent moments, but there’s nothing too awfully bloody, and the very worst parts are left to the reader’s imagination. Also, all of the women are busty and tall and gorgeous, which might make the female reader feel, in comparison, like a dumpy old cow– but even inexperienced readers of superhero books know to expect that, I suppose. Hrmph.

Check the WRL catalog for Identity Crisis

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the librarianIt was bound to happen sooner or later. A blog sponsored by a public library would eventually have to have a review of the movie The Librarian: Quest For the Spear. I may be putting my professional credibility on the line, but I have seen this movie several times and never fail to laugh at the comical situations and great one-liners in this over-the-top but funny look at one very special library and its librarian.  Noah Wyle is great as Flynn Carsen, a professional student in his thirties who has over 20 degrees and still lives with his mother, played very well by Olympia Dukakis.

When one of his professors finally gives him the boot so that he can experience life in the real world, Flynn is invited to apply and accepted as “The Librarian” of the Metropolitan Public Library. His boss, Judson (Bob Newhart),  charges him with the responsibility for protecting this secretive library’s vast holdings, which includes some of the world’s greatest treasures. When thieves break in and steal a part of a magical spear, Flynn is given the mission to recover the stolen spear and find its remaining two parts, which are hidden in different places at opposite ends of the Earth.  To help him on his task, he is teamed up with Nicole Noon (Sonya Walger) and together they risk life and limb to recover the three parts of the magical spear. There is lots of action that spoofs Indiana Jones and other action heroes, and a highlight is to see Bob Newhart as Judson take on a gang of thugs by himself near the end of the movie.

If you enjoy action comedies, or if you want to see a movie about a very different kind of library, or if you have ever enjoyed any of these fine actors in the past, including Noah Wyle (ER), Bob Newhart, Olympia Dukakis, and Jane Curtin (3rd Rock From the Sun) , then you should definitely give this movie a try. The Williamsburg Regional Library also has the next two movies in this series, which are also lots of fun to watch, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines and The Librarian 3: Curse of the Judas Chalice. All three are highly recommended.

Check the WRL catalog for The Librarian: Quest for the Spear

Check the WRL catalog for The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines

Or try The Librarian 3: Curse of the Judas Chalice

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There’s a reason nobody recognizes that Clark Kent is Superman, and it’s not the powerful disguise of a pair of square-rimmed glasses. He’s hiding behind the fact that he is BORING. The same holds true for other heroes: Batman. Wonder Woman. Spiderman. Let’s face it, the only thing colorful about these folks is their clingy outfits. Everything else about them is strictly off-white with a hint of beige. 

Give me a good supervillain anyday. OK, they’re evil. And they talk too much. And they always lose in the end. You probably say the same thing about most of your friends behind their backs, and you still hang out with them.

Austin Grossman understands that the average superhero has the personality of pressed-wood, oak-finish furniture. That’s why he has written most of the delightful Soon I Will Be Invincible, a blend of superhero fantasy and literary fiction, from the perspective of the villain Dr. Impossible. Even though he’s the smartest guy in the world, Dr. Impossible knows he will probably lose. He knows he has a problem with making speeches before he has completed his evil plan. He’s got lots of other flaws too, flaws that make him funny and interesting.

In Grossman’s alternate history, heroes have corporate sponsors and military contracts. A superhero team called the Champions is the reigning power, but Corefire, its strongest member, is missing in action. The brains behind the team, Blackwolf and Damsel are distracted by their recent divorce and the next strongest Champion, Lily, is only recently reformed from life as a villain. Their best hope may be Fatale, a cyborg and the newest member of the team (who alternates narration with Impossible), but she’s still busy trying to fit in.

Grossman uses all the clichés of the superhero story to great effect, and still manages plenty of surprises for the reader. It’s like Alan Moore’s classic graphic novel Watchmen but much cheekier. This fine first novel that should please anyone who has ever cracked a comic book or watched a superhero movie.

Check the WRL catalog for Soon I Will Be Invincible

Soon I Will Be Invincible

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Yep. That Kevin Smith. Same guy who did Dogma and Clerks up and decided to write a graphic novel. All you fans of the movies can rejoice, because his book reads just like his movie scripts: it’s funny, it’s cerebral, it’s irreverent, and it’s deeply, deeply satisfying.

This is actually the second Kevin Smith Green Arrow graphic novel, a follow-up to Green Arrow: Quiver. The hero is The Green Arrow, a superhero with a viscous shooting ability, though no supernatural talents. The Green Arrow has been with DC Comics since the 1940s, but he’s never been mega-popular like Superman or Wonder Woman. Yet Kevin Smith managed to take this lesser character and create a book that proved extremely popular with comics fans.

But this is the great part: you don’t have to be a hardcore comics reader to like this book. You don’t need a lifetime habit of reading DC Comics to like Sounds of Violence. All you need is an appreciation of clever writing and enjoyable illustrations.

At the start of Sounds of Violence, Ollie, a.k.a. the Green Arrow, is dealing with ordinary domestic problems: can he convince his protégé Mia to get to school on time? How can he bond with his newfound adult son Connor? Should he call his ex, the ravishing superhero Black Canary? These mundane questions evaporate when an unknown villain shoots Connor in the head. Until the very end of the book Connor’s fate remains up in the air, and even when he recovers at the story’s resolution, the villain remains at large, despite a gory climactic confrontation with the Green Arrow. Though the illustrators’ bold colors and clean artistic renderings make the frequent violence especially realistic, the most disturbing scenes revolve around the emotional trauma suffered by Connor’s family as they wait to see if he’ll live or die. It’s not for the squeamish, but it’s a fun book if you don’t mind seeing violence and some PG-13 sex.

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Nineteenth-century literature meets the superhero graphic novel: characters including Mina Harker, last seen in Bram Stoker’s Dracula; “science pirate” Captain Nemo; adventurer Allan Quartermain; and both Jekyll and his alter-ego join forces to save London’s East End. Detailed panels, cultural allusions, and a witty, complicated storyline make this a stunning blend of literary fiction and science fiction. Sex and graphic violence figure prominently. You may be interested in seeing the movie, too, though be warned that most people did not care for it when it was released. 2002, 741.5 Moo.

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