juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes (Issues #1-8)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: New York: Vertigo, 1988-1989
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 240
Total Page Count: 201,615
Text Number: 616
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library (I own this, but it's in the other city)
Review: In the attempt to capture Death, occultists instead imprison another of the Endless: Dream, whose absence sets the world out of sorts. I agree with Gaiman in his afterward: this is a scattered volume, in tone, worldbuilding, and narrative style; the comic cameos are particularly out of place (although Constantine fits in). The underlying worldbuilding, characterization of the Endless, and the aesthetic (especially the use of color) are more promising, but they don't get much chance to shine here. I've read this before, and it left as little impression then as now—but this time I'll continue the series.


Title: The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's House (Issues #9-16)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: New York: Vertigo, 1989-1990
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 230
Total Page Count: 201,845
Text Number: 617
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Rose Walker is a mortal woman reuniting with her grandmother; she is also a vortex, with the potential to destroy Dream's domain. The shift away from Dream is an interesting one; giving him a background role preserves his mystique, but other characters can't quite fill his place and, while Rose's identity is engaging, her emotional arc is predictable. But this is a tighter volume than the first; the uninspired questing framework is rescued by the interwoven plotlines, and the reliance on coincidence works in a mythic story like this one. It turns out that I've read this volume before too (I'm not sure when or how) and what I remember of it, the Cereal Convention, is less interesting than the narrative decisions at work. Ultimately, this isn't amazing but it is successful.


Title: The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country (Issues #17-20)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: New York: Vertigo, 1990
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 160
Total Page Count: 202,005
Text Number: 618
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Four standalone stories on the nature of dreams and dreaming, none of which particularly engaged me: I don't love the PoV and art choices in "Calliope" or the entirety of "A Dream of a Thousand Cats;" "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is the most ambitious and successful story, but does so much that it can't do it in much depth, and while I love Death's appearance in "Façade" the DC tie-in continues to feel out of place. These experiments with form and protagonist are admirable, but the short format makes each effort shallow; I'd prefer to return to a longer plotline.


Title: The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists (Issues #21-28)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Published: New York: Vertigo, 1990–1991
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 190
Total Page Count: 202,195
Text Number: 619
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After Lucifer abdicates, denizens of various realms and pantheons petition Death for the key to Hell. I find these larger arcs more satisfying, but still not as profound as the metaphysical premise promises to be. A lot of time is given to introducing swaths of unremarkable characters, with some exceptions—most particularly the glimpses of the other Endless. This steals space from the plot, rendering it anticlimactic. It's all strangely prosaic, even the musing on the nature of Hell, even the chance to see Dream in his domain. I hold out hope for something unexpected, and will continue the series—but it has yet to capture me.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Alex + Ada Volume 1 (Issues #1-5)
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 130
Total Page Count: 194,730
Text Number: 574
Read Because: interested in the trope, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When given an top of the line android, Alex names her Ada and is drawn into the underworld of android sentience. This first third of the story spends most of it time on worldbuilding; character development and interactions are limited as a result, and perhaps that's for the best as Ada is a non-character for most of this volume. The worldbuilding is what one would expect from the premise, the art is beyond bland, but the underlying concepts are interesting—especially the localized, personal focus on the creation of and interaction with sentience.


Title: Alex + Ada Volume 2 (Issues #6-10)
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 130
Total Page Count: 194,860
Text Number: 575
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: An android's awakened sentience makes for a complicated relationship with her former owner. This continues to be surface-level good: it engages promising tropes and is nicely human—especially Ada's curiosity and burgeoning sense of self. I'm a sucker for sentient android narratives, and while this brings nothing new to the table it still satisfies those desires. But the interpersonal narrative is predictable and uninspired, and its heteronormativity is all the more disappointing for the diversity hinted at by background characters.


Title: Alex + Ada Volume 3 (Issues #11-15)
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Published: Berkeley: Image Comics, 2015
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 135
Total Page Count: 194,995
Text Number: 576
Read Because: continuing the series, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Alex and Ada are thrust into a political battle over android rights. I appreciate the scope of this conclusion, but otherwise it continues as it began: engaging tropes with unimaginative exploration. I wish this series had more creative worldbuilding, exploring AI personality construction and otherwise bringing to the foreground the teasing bits of information that make up the background (a sentient robot shaped like an egg! androids defying human gender conventions! androids switching off parts of their brains!). I also wish that the foreground cast were as diverse as the background characters; a star-crossed straight white cis pairing renders predictable the romance that motivates the story in lieu of interesting worldbuilding. Alex + Ada is consistently readable, and I wanted to love it, but what it does has been done better elsewhere; this is only mediocre, and I don't recommend it.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Deadpool Classic Volume 3
Editor: Mark D. Beazley
Published: New York: Marvel, 2011 (2009)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 280
Total Page Count: 137,873
Text Number: 405
Read Because: continuing the series, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Contains Deadpool #9-17 and Amazing Spider-man #47. This collection begins with a comic interlude, a one-off villain and a trip back in time which drops Deadpool in the middle of a classic Spiderman issue. The change of pace may be necessary and the Spiderman rewrite engages some ruthless self-mockery, but it's disappointing to put aside the question of Deadpool's morality. When it picks that back up, the collection improves. As he nears rock bottom, Deadpool's identity crisis grows less theoretical and more explicit; despite its thematic relevance the overarching plot is unremarkable, but what's more interesting is Deadpool's problematic interactions with peers and would-be friends. The art in these issues is all over the place, because of the brief return to 1960s comic style but largely as a result of multiple artists who fail to hold to a single standard. But Kelly's writing continues to improve: it's far from flawless and the straight humor isn't to my taste, but Deadpool's smart mouth and toxic personality are a compelling and deadly pair. I'm enjoying this series immensely, and recommend it.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Deadpool Classic Volume 2
Editor: Mark D. Beazley
Published: New York: Marvel, 2011 (2009)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 256
Total Page Count: 135,806
Text Number: 398
Read Because: continuing the series, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Containing Deadpool #2-8, Deadpool #-1 (a standalone flashback to his past), and Deadpool/Daredevil Annual 1997, this is a surprisingly united collection: at this point, Deadpool's story is a morality saga. On an issue by issue basis, this may be ponderous or simplistic or ignored—but as the issues stack up, the topic gains subtlety and becomes an increasingly effective motivation to plot and character which steers the series away from frivolous mutant-battles-of-the-month. Deadpool's running narrative often offers some counterbalancing levity, but it can also stand in violent contrast to his actions. The art is much sleeker and more unified than in Volume 1 (Deadpool #-1 is a distinct exception), but there were some printing flaws in the imprint I read. I don't want to oversell this volume: it's not stellar storytelling, but Joe Kelly is finding his stride and it reflects throughout these issues.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Title: Deadpool Classic Volume 1
Editor: Mark D. Beazley
Published: New York: Marvel, 2009
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 264
Total Page Count: 134,944
Text Number: 395
Read Because: personal enjoyment, borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Including his first appearance (in New Mutants #98), two miniseries, and the first issue of the his ongoing series, this is a non-exhaustive but perfectly satisfactory introduction to Deadpool. The art is inconsistent at best—the New Mutants issue is drawn by Rob Liefeld, and "mutant" is taken as an excuse to disregard anatomy throughout—but the printing and editing are fine. The writing never excels in either depth or humor, but Deadpool himself, even this early in the game, is just what the reader would hope for: irreverent, artless, and funny in a way that crosses slapstick with black comedy; by Deadpool #1, he's begun evolving into a genre self-parody. Deadpool Classic Volume 1 skips guest appearances and isn't for completionists, nor is it a particularly standout collection of stories, but it functions fine as an introduction to the character—dated, inconsistent, but with a strong sense of where Deadpool came from and what he'll grow to be. I'll continue on with this anthology, and recommend it.

Review posted here on Amazon.com.

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