Ex Machina Vol. 4: March to War by Brian K. Vaughan (My Rating: 4/5) For those that don’t know, Ex Machina tells the story of a superhero turned politician and everything that would entail. It’s handled pretty well for the most part. Vaughan attempts to tackle some interesting topics in each volume, and here he takes on the idea of national security versus basic human rights regarding privacy. Admittedly the previous volumes felt smoother than this one, but he does all right. Of course, it’s hard to maintain a sense of humor with a topic like that, which is one of the things that’s made the series so readable up to this point.
Ex Machina Vol. 5: Smoke, Smoke by Brian K. Vaughan (My Rating: 4/5) Yes, I was on a roll with this series. Not a bad volume, fairly on par with the rest. But personally there is nothing I find more tiring and eye-roll worthy than talking about the legalization of pot. Or how we label people who use it. And so on and so forth. I liked the little twist at the end, which, as most things do in this series, paints our main character in a light that might leave you scowling or grinning depending on the type of person you are. I appreciate that Vaughan rides that line, and it’s what keeps me reading.
Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due (My Rating: 4/5) This is such an eclectic short story collection. It has so many different versions of horror in it, and I love that she doesn’t limit herself in any way. Even future worlds and technologies are tackled here. I loved that every time I turned a corner in this book, there was some new thing to meet me. Even the ghost stories (a sub-genre I struggle with thanks to overused tropes) were unique and chilling. My complaint would be more toward the publisher than the writing: what was with those typos? Some stories had none. Some were littered with mistakes. A better editor was sorely needed.
The Invisibles Vol. 1: Say You Want A Revolution by Grant Morrison (My Rating: 2/5) Oh boy. This came up on my radar recently. I’ve been a fan of The Matrix for a while and yet was totally unaware that this comic had a lot to do with the story and style choices of that film. Of course I was intrigued, so I looked into it. It’s… The Matrix if it made less sense, and some people might actually be running away screaming from the fact that I’m saying that. But it’s true. Far too complicated and refusing to explain a single thing, I barely got through this.
Some things require you to take them slow, to give them a second pass, to maybe absorb the opinions and analyses of others. I don’t think anything could make me feel like a light had been shone on this, because it’s not a matter of depth or profundity. It’s a matter of someone smacking words onto a page and being intentionally confusing in an attempt to seem intelligent. Do you remember that speech The Architect gave in The Matrix: Reloaded that everyone hated? The one that seemed overly purple and philosophical and came off as the filmmakers smirking as us? “We’re just too smart for you. That’s all.” Yeah, that. I don’t require that any story or piece of work hold my hand, but reading someone’s 200 page ego-blast of intellectual snobbery doesn’t impress me. Being unable to write on a level people can understand is not a cute trick, it’s simply bad writing.
But it had its moments. Those moments where I could see it inspiring something groundbreaking like The Matrix. He had some interesting characters in there. The idea that they can jump anywhere in time, that there’s a dream-like quality to these trips they take, is interesting. Good ideas abound. So does awful execution.
Swamp Thing Vol. 6 by Alan Moore (My Rating: 4/5) See, this is who Morrison wants to be like, clearly. If The Invisibles was an exercise in futility, Moore gracefully illustrates how you write mind-bending tales that are wonderfully readable. Swamp Thing spends much of this volume in space, encountering all sorts of weird things, and it never became so dense that it was impenetrable. Even Moore at his most self-indulgent is nowhere close to being a slog. Were there maybe too many side quests about Swamp Thing in space? Yeah, it might’ve been overdone a tad. But at least it was never a mess. This is the last volume of his run on this title, and it was a lovely conclusion that left me feeling like an era had ended. I can’t recommend this series enough. Everyone should read it.
The Impossible Man by J.G. Ballard (My Rating: 2.5/5) Nothing special. I wish I could say something grabbed me or even offended me enough to make me have a reaction like I did with The Invisibles. But no. Ballard has great ideas, but his prose is overwrought and throbbingly purple. Rather than gracefully leave some things to subtext, he feels the need to explain his symbolism directly in the text. That little tic of his especially confused me. Quietly hinting could’ve made some of these stories great, but he seemed terrified that the reader might not get how profound he was being, so he laid it all out. These stories could’ve been on par with someone like Harlan Ellison, but the writing was just too clumsy.
I wish I had read more this month. The reason I didn’t was because I’m trying to get through Swan Song by Robert McCammon. It’s his version of The Stand. It’s almost as hefty, so it’s taking some time. Hopefully next month, I’ll have a more impressive turn out.