Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let the Right One In (2004)

Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist | Translator: Ebba Segerberg | Page Count: 519

'They could give a number of reasons for why they had to torment him; he was too fat, too ugly, too disgusting.  But the real problem was simply that he existed, and every reminder of his existence was a crime.'

Lindqvist has been described as ‘the new Stephen King’ in the press.  It quickly lets you know that you're getting a well-written horror novel but it isn't just a lazy journo way of getting an idea across, because he really does write like King.  His character development, his plotting and his reliance on the reader to fully invest in the magic realism of the world are uncannily similar.  He also has almost identical failings as King: the awkward wording at the end that ruins an otherwise perfect paragraph of prose, the over-indulgence, the pop culture references that date the work, etc.  They're all here.

The biggest difference between the two, at least with this novel, is that Lindqvist doesn't give the reader anyone to like.
Firstly, there’s young Oskar, the school bully's favourite punching bag.  Ordinarily it would be he that receives our sympathies but his vivid imagination and morbid fascination with death keep him just outside the realm of likeable.
Next, there’s Eli, the girl next door.  Is she the one?  She’s as much a victim as Oskar.  She has some likeable and noble traits but she exists in another world.
Then there’s Eli’s adult protector but it's certainly not he, for reasons I can’t expand upon in this review.  In fact, all of the adults are selfish and flawed in some way; there’ll be no parent of the year awards given out to any of them.

I feel I should give a warning before you even consider picking up the book: there’s some graphic sexual content that most readers will find offensive, both morally and ethically.  If you don’t get offended then you've got serious, serious problems.  Parts of it make for very uncomfortable reading.
Elsewhere, there are some equally graphic horror moments that are so well described, so beautifully depicted, that you may even be reeling back from the page as you read.  They really are magnificent in a grotesque way.

The ending is abrupt.  It makes sense within the context of the story but it’s almost as if Lindqvist thought, I guess I’d better end this now, it’s gone on long enough.  He subsequently wrote a short story that you can find in the collection Let the Old Dreams Die (2012) to document what happened afterwards, and to clarify his intentions because they’re unclear and open to interpretation.

4 complex puzzles out of 5

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk Omnibus (2007)

Author: Greg Pak | Illustrators: Carlo Pagulayan / Aaron Lopresti / Michael Avon Oeming / Alex Nino / Marshall Rogers  | Page Count: 384

"I didn't come here for a whisper. I wanna hear you scream."

The best Hulk stories are the ones that don’t rely on the Hulk Smash! clichés as an excuse to litter the page with the detritus of teenage wet dreams involving explosive violence and bloody carnage.  Planet Hulk avoids that for a while but eventually crumbles like a cookie in Hulk’s hand, and there’s so much “Finally. Hulk knows who to smash,” that my brain almost seeped out of my ears trying to get away from what my eyes were forcing it to assimilate.  It’s a great shame because the first half of Book I is bursting with promise, and even delivers upon some of it from time to time.

Prior to the story’s beginnings Hulk’s world is shaken by the realisation (or confirmation) that his ‘friends’ each brandish a back-stabbing knife and share a collective fear of his condition.  Instead of putting extra effort into helping him cope they take the coward’s way out by removing him from their space.

Stranded now on a world torn apart by a tyrannical ruler, the bulging green menace is forced to rely on his wits, and his (*chuckle) people skills.
For reasons I won’t go into, Hulk is thrust into the role of reluctant leader, which doesn't sit well because he’s not ever been what your boss at work would call a team player.  There’s a large cast of characters woven around his situation, and they exist in a world that’s well fleshed out with its own history and culture.

The strengths of the work lie in the perspectives taken, both literal (the art direction) and in how to view a hero / villain depending on which side of the fence you happen to lie.  In war the enemy is always the villain but both sides are an enemy.  Hulk is a monster but he’s our monster.  His goals are sympathetic to our goals, and our goals are noble because we are noble.  Does that make him more like us, or make us more like him?

When those kinds of questions are raised the story excels.  Unfortunately the chaos overshadows them, and by Book II, when everything turns to shit for the characters, the story suffers.  There’s a deeply emotional moment that knocked me for six but overall by the end of the chaos I felt physically drained by the experience when I should’ve been more emotionally drained.

The book collects together The Incredible Hulk Vol. 2 issues 92 – 105; Giant-Size Hulk vol. 2 issue 1; and ‘Mastermind Excello’ from Amazing Fantasy issue 15.

3 stupid names out of 5

Friday, October 4, 2013

Wolverine: Origin (2009)

Authors: Paul Jenkins / Bill Jemas / Joe Quesada | Illustrator: Andy Kubert | Page Count: 200

There's cruelty in his eyes now, make no mistake. When I catch him looking up at my window, it frightens me.

I've already reviewed the story in which Wolverine got his adamantium skeleton (Weapon X (2009)), but this one takes place before that. Like the title says, it's the character's origin story, not his transformation story. It lifts the veil from his past by following him from childhood, through adolescence and into maturity.

I was hesitant about reading it because the mystery of the character was a large part of his allure. Filling in the blanks was a bold move by Marvel, one that could've sent ripples of derision and disappointment through the fanbase, but, in my opinion, it paid off. The book is by far one of the best that the House of (regurgitated) ideas ever commissioned; at least, of the ones I've read.

Part of the reason it stands head and shoulders above many of the others is because it dares to break free from the typical comic book format. It draws from other sources, primarily classic women's literature. It's Wolvie’s story but it unfolds through the eyes of a young girl, who is herself moving from adolescence into maturity. As she sits atop a symbolic hill, her diary entries record her thoughts; they strip Wolverine metaphorically naked, enabling the reader to forget the assumptions and biases formed by his chronologically subsequent exploits. Her observations show him instead as a troubled youth being shaped by a world of divided social class; a world that isn't a happy one for either of them.

The art was coloured straight from Andy Kubert's pencils by Richard Isanove, leaving out the inker completely. The rich candlelit oranges and earthy browns, contrasted by the dark bluish nights and the cold grey of winter give the book an organic, less rigid appearance that's incredibly complementary to the historical setting. The volume of textless panels vs exposition is perfect and lets the story's strengths rise to the surface early on.

The book collects together Wolverine: Origin, issues 1–6.

5 fearful symmetries out of 5