Monday, May 10, 2010

“The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book”

By Gord Hill
ISBN No. 978-1-55152-360-6

Batman, Spiderman, X Men; all comic books; all turned into blockbuster movies. For a while there it looked like the comic book had gone the way of the Sunday newspaper funnies: light, disposable entertainment. And now comes “The 500 Years of Resistance Comic Book” and it’s a reminder about just how complacent popular culture has become in the oppression of human rights, and how wonderfully engaging and provocative comic books can be if they’re done properly. The set-up is simple. Gord Hill, a member of the Kwakwaka’wakw nation, and an activist in the Indigenous people’s movement, whose causes stretch from the 1990 Oka Crisis to the anti-2010 Olympics campaign, documents – through historically accurate black-and-white drawings and text – the resistance of Indigenous people to the European colonization of the Americas. The images and stories are shocking – and not just for the gore quotient. They’re shocking because when it comes to the calendar of the world, Columbus’ visit to America in 1492 is pretty recent and still ripe for re-interpretation and correction (both political and humanistic). What’s really impressive about the book, however, is how the medium fits and re-energizes the message perfectly: the anarchy of comic books, and their ability to shape young minds. And therein lies the true importance of a comic book as brave as this one: it has echoes of the topicality of headline-grabbing causes that the government ignores, wishes would go away (and, thus, get worse). Wow…

“Flying Feet”

By James McCann
ISBN No. 978-1-55469-290-3

It used to be so easy. If a fight broke out during a hockey or soccer game it was poor sportsmanship, bad manners; it was just…wrong. These days the fights are fast becoming the main attraction. More than just “The Karate Kid” turned up a notch but not quite “Fight Club” for tweens, “Flying Feet” is about a youth seduced into that violent culture known as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Jinho, is a young man feeling constrained by the limits of traditional tae kwan do. When he’s invited to join an underground MMA club where there are no boundaries or even referees, he’s amped. That is, until he realizes just how dangerous the sport is. What follows is the customary life lesson, the learning to depend on one’s integrity, and a frightening visit to the ring against a fighter known only as “The Ripper” [shudder]. Seriously, it’s like “Rocky” - but with real suspense. Obviously, “Flying Feet” is a topical book. But it’s also a welcome and important socio-political ring tone for kids already a bit desensitized by cement head Dad’s addiction to TV’s “Ultimate Fight Club.” It’s also written in a nice, easy style that will keep both kids’ and parents’ interest in the outcome piqued. It’s also got a bit of a surprise ending – if you expected calm heads to prevail before the big fight – because if I didn’t mention it earlier there actually IS a fight!

“Tales of the Otherworld”

By Kelley Armstrong
ISBN No. 978-0-307-35756-4

1970s television had a name for it: the spin-off. It worked this way: “All in the Family” spun off Edith’s cousin Maude into her own show and “Maude” spun off her maid, Florida, into her own show (“Good Times”). In essence, the new shows were everything you ever wanted to know about AITF’s supporting characters. It’s the same thing with “Tales of the Otherworld.” If you were curious about how Clayton Danvers fell in love, or how Eve caught Kristof, then wonder no more. This book is all about the details that have kept readers of Armstrong’s Otherworld series tossing and turning at night and filling up blogs during the day. For the sake of surprise all I can say is that even hardened readers will be surprised – and impressed. Yet the most wow-worthy piece in this book isn’t a chapter, but the book’s introduction. There, Armstrong relates how she writes FOR the reader. I mean REALLY writes for the reader. “Years ago, when I first launched my website, I wanted to do something that would thank readers for their support,” she writes, explaining the e-serials she would publish. ”I’d poll readers, then write them a story,” she says. Wow… And suddenly, all is right in the publishing world. Suddenly, the writer rules and the readers win. Because for once, this isn’t take-it-or-leave-it marketing. This is essentially Armstrong telling her stories to friends around a campfire and the effect is a heartening re-affirmation about the good the internet can do. Even better, she writes that the proceeds from TFTO are going to World Literacy of Canada. Armstrong writes: “The stories were originally intended as a gift to readers and now they’ll be ‘re-gifted’ to a worthy cause.”