This weekend I, like so many other Netflix users around the world, sat down and binge-watched the second season of The Umbrella Academy. When the first series came out, I didn’t know much about it. All I knew was that it was based on a comic book series written by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. Now, I admit that Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is one of my guilty pleasure albums but I’ve long outgrown MCR. I didn’t expect to enjoy the show but Netflix is clever. It kept playing the trailer over and over until I couldn’t help but watch. I was quickly obsessed. It was a great show and the soundtrack was phenomenal. It felt new and nostalgic at the same time. I couldn’t wait for the follow-up season and, though the narrative wasn’t quite as slick, it was still bloody entertaining. So, when I realised I wouldn’t finish a book in time for today’s review, I knew I had to do something drastic. I bought the Kindle edition of the first volume of the comics. I had to see for myself.
All being well, I should finally be watching The Joker tonight. I’ve been trying to arrange a time to see it for ages. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to think about it. I try not to take too much notice to criticism before I see a film but it’s been hard to avoid most of it. I know there has been some backlash from female critics and some questions about the motivations of the Joker in it. But there has also been a lot of praise. Plus, I’m already biased against Todd Phillips thanks to his absolutely stupid comments about comedy and “woke culture”. Guy sounds like a dick and I’m assuming that his film is bound to match his outdated ideas. But, I still want to go in with an open mind. After all, the Joker is one of the most iconic villains in comic book history. So, for this week’s Friday Favourites, I thought I’d explore some of my favourite Joker centric Batman storylines. Quick disclaimer, I’m by no means a Batman comic expert. I’ve not read as much as I’d like to have read but I’ve read enough to get by comfortably.
After watching the adaptation of Hush the other day, I decided that it would be a good idea to go back to the graphic novel. I don’t know how long it’s been since I last read it but it’s been a while. Is it entirely possible that I’m doing it because I knew I was ever going to finish my current read in time for this post? Possibly. But that shouldn’t take anything away from the fact that it was in keeping with my theme of the week. And it is one of those classic Batman story arcs. The kind that is so often referred to in lists of the ones read. But, if I’m honest, I’ve never been as big of a fan as other people. I didn’t know if I was just missing something or whether it actually was just massively hyped. Of course, it’s possible that the artwork was just making it seem better. I admit to falling for that so often. If a graphic novel is a bit meh but the artwork is gorgeous I’ll always rate it higher. But is that the point? Should it be let off for looking good if the story isn’t all that great?
This week I find myself having finished a few shorter reads that I want to talk about but that didn’t really fill a full review. Not wanting to drag something out for the sake of it, I’m going to combine them all in one simple post. Why not?
So, I’ve broken my book buying ban with only one fucking day to go in the month. Why did I do it? Because I knew that I wouldn’t finish either of the books I’ve got on the go by the time I had to write this review. So, I popped into my local bookshop to see if I could find a quick read that looked interesting. I found it in the small selection of graphic novels and, after reading the quote on the front, decided I couldn’t not read it. “A story of courage and heroism to inspire young people everywhere.” I mean who could ignore an endorsement like that? Especially when the back cover reveals that Malala Yousafzai was also a fan. The graphic novel version of Deborah Ellis’ The Breadwinner is actually the adaptation of the 2018 animated film based on the book. So, I have just read the novelisation of a film I haven’t seen that was based on a book I haven’t read. Whatever could go wrong?
I don’t read enough graphic novels but I do love them. To the extent that every time I read a great one I think to myself “I should read more graphic novels”. It was Sabrina that really got my heart pumping for a good graphic novel this year so when I was given the chance to read a new release from Pushkin Press. It is the prequel to Jakob Wegelius’ critically acclaimed The Murderer’s Ape. I hadn’t read The Murderer’s Ape but everything that I found out about it suggested that it would the kind of thing I loved. And the promise of a unique and rare graphic novel was something I couldn’t ignore. It arrived last Thursday and I immediately started reading it. I was done by Friday and I’ve already ordered Wegelius’ first book.
Every year the Man Booker Prize longlist comes and it becomes a massive list of books I want to read. Inevitably, I never get round to them all but I will try to manage one. That one then becomes my top pick for the prize because it is the only one I’ll ever read. Most of the time my picks don’t make it to the shortlist and, if they do, they never win the prize. It was only last year’s Lincoln in the Bardo that I correctly championed. This year the first and, thereby, only book I’ve read is the one causing a massive stir. For, in 2018, the Man Booker committee have decided to place a graphic novel on their longlist. It’s quite a huge step for a prize that is so often awarded to similar works all deemed to be of high literary value. Occasionally, you’ll get the odd piece that verges more on popular literary fiction, like David Nicholls’ Us, but it never makes it to the shortlist. These guys know what they like and that’s not going to change. So, for there to be a graphic novel on the list is a pretty big deal. For such an elitist prize to pick something so un-literary is unprecedented. I had to check it out for myself.
As you may have noticed from my last couple of book reviews, I was starting to get a bit cocky about the frequency with which I was starting to post them. I mean two in two weeks. Who would have thought it? Especially when a matter of weeks ago I was experiencing a devastating reading slump that saw me slog through Frankenstein in Baghdad for over two months! But, I admit, I was starting to get a bit too big for my boots. Something which promptly stopped the minute I realised I’d not read a damn thing for most of last week. I’m currently reading White Houses by Amy Bloom but I’ve not been feeling it this week. Nope, what I’ve been feeling is Project Runway and whatever other shit I could find on Netflix. So, when I wrote my Sunday Rundown this week I started panicking that I wouldn’t have anything to review tonight. So I did what any other good book blogger did and bought a book that I not only wanted to read but, more importantly, could finish in one night! Really the only reaction. So, yet again, I’m keeping up my streak. With a little sneakiness.
Turns out, the combination of no sleep the night before and feasting on a huge Easter Sunday roast dinner was enough to make me forget about posting my weekly rundown. I just fell straight to sleep last night and it wasn’t until this morning that I realised. I feel a little stupid that after a month of managing to be able to write an additional post every day it’s now that I miss my schedule. Still, better late than never. And what a week it’s been. Finishing off my blog project, finally putting my 30th birthday behind me. And some exciting book news.. Also, I’m unveiling my new graphic for this series. I always find it sad that this gets posted every week without a picture attached so I created one. Unfortunately, on its first week it will read the wrong day but i’m okay with that. Just this once. At least it adds some colour to proceedings.
I have my fair share of graphic novels but they are mostly from the fantastical/ superhero side of things. I’ve read maybe a couple of non-fiction graphic novels in my time but definitely not enough. The last one was at the end of 2016 when I managed to squeeze in The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Bryan Talbot and Mary Talbot before midnight January 31st. I don’t read enough non-fiction as it is so I should probably embrace the graphic novel format to manage more. I mean all those words replaced with pictures. It makes getting through a story so much easier. I first came across this book when I was killing time in Waterstones waiting for a friend. I spent a lot of money that I hadn’t wanted to and could have spent way more. This was one of the graphic novels being recommended by staff and it sounded like a must read. So I bought it… but somewhere that was selling it for less than Waterstones. I never really know how to read a graphic novel. I feel like it should be in one sitting but that feels like a bit of a mammoth task. So I spent a few days on this and I think it worked better. You definitely could read it in one go but I think I benefited from having a break now and then.