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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lady Windermere's Fan (1892)

Author: Oscar Wilde  |  Page Count: 152*

"In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

The events in Oscar's play about a 'Good Woman’ occur over a twenty-four hour period in Victorian London. It's a short work, divided into four Acts: the time spent by Lady Windermere and her husband before a coming of age birthday ball hosted by the couple; the party itself; the aftermath; and the resolutions of the following morning/afternoon. That's ample time for drama and scandal to erupt.

The ball is attended by a select gentry, but strip away the mannered social standings and tailored suits and it's like every party everywhere, filled with two-faced gossip, hypocrisy, nonchalance, indignation and unwarranted observations by caustic people who would chide a speaker for doing the same. The self-indulgent concerns of rich-folks could've been a real bore if not for Oscar's piercing wit to spice it up; he made the verbal meanderings of dull people seem exciting. Under attack are the conventions of marriage, among other things.

The juxtapositions and sarcasms that Wilde enjoys so much aren't just decorative flair, they serve a deeper function whereby reversals act as commentary on the characters from which they originate, and as a singularly reflective study of a particular stratum of society as a whole. It highlights that quite often judgements designed to protect us are secretly used to elevate us in status. Within that is also the notion that impressions can (and often do) be wrong.

His skill at both staging and critiquing his own content evolved in later works, but there's no denying that LWF is an excellent piece when viewed in isolation.

It's been said by some critics that in many of his works the 'voice' of the author overshadows all other concerns, and in LWF it's so obvious that you'll spot it without needing any help. Personally, I don't have a problem with it happening.

3½ late lessons out of 5

*Kindle ebook edition, but page count will vary greatly depending on the publisher.  I've seen editions for sale with as little as 52 pages.  As long as you have all four Acts of the play then you're golden.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dredd: Urban Warfare (2015)

Authors: Arthur Wyatt / Matt Smith  |  Illustrators: Henry Flint / Paul Davidson  |  Page Count: 96

'From the gleaming tower, he watches the sector burn.'

I rated Underbelly (2014) less than average on a comic book Dredd scale, but I was still planning on buying the second tie-in, a two-parter titled Uprise (2014), simply to show support for the franchise and keep hope alive for a second film. However, by the time I was ready to pony up the cash, details of Urban Warfare had already appeared online. Seeing as how it collects both the previously mentioned works and adds a third story, telling of Ma-Ma’s origins, it seemed the more logical choice to go for. Plus, it’s a hardcover. The three stories are:

01. Top of the World, Ma-Ma (2012)
A violent prologue to the Dredd movie (2012) that shows us a little of Ma-Ma's past, most of which was mentioned briefly in the film's script. It foreshadows certain events, too, which was a nice touch. It really is just a prologue, so don't expect anything more than that and it'll deliver the goods.

02. Underbelly (2014)
I read it again, but even with adjusted expectations my feelings towards it are unchanged. You can read the previous post HERE. The page size is returned to what it should've been, not the US comic size, and for that I'm grateful.

03. Uprise (2014)
Yes!  The best of the bunch. The story is less of a rehash of the film and more like something that would fit snugly into the comic. I realise they're two different aspects and should remain as such, but there's nothing wrong with attempting to meet the Megazine's standards.
There's a declaration of ownership from a sector within the Big Meg, a direct defiance of the system that Dredd represents. It's a threat that needs put to rest fast, lest it spread virus-like to other areas, so Dredd rolls in and busts heads.
It uses the 'riot happening alongside clue-uncovering' scenario, but it's done well and it doesn't wimp out. It also places itself firmly after the film by referencing something from it. It feels like an ongoing story, not just an adapted one.

I'm disappointed they chose to reuse the cover art of Underbelly. There’s no shortage of artists waiting in line, willing to draw Dredd. They could've at least used one of the lesser-known variant covers that were featured on the Uprise single issues. Grud knows variants aren't of use for anything else.

3 pacification units out of 5

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dune Messiah (1969)

Author: Frank Herbert  |  Page Count: 222

'Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree.'
-Addenda to Orders in Council, The Emperor Paul Muad'dib

The first sequel to Dune (1965) is almost half as thick as the one that came before, but that’s not the only difference.  When you begin reading you'll discover a significant shift in reader-sympathies.  Herbert didn't lay a lengthy groundwork, because he already had the characters where he needed them to be.  Instead, he jumped straight into an exploration of what happens after the war is won and the tyrant vanquished.  When the new order has replaced the old, what then?

He also studies what happens when a thing is set in motion—a thing that takes on an impetus of its own and branches into other avenues.  The one who set the ball rolling from a historic perspective gets blamed for every nuance, more so when the beliefs of the people who act in the name dictate that it be deified and that the religion should spread as far as possible throughout the stars.

The sects and orders that Muad'Dib subjugated were forced to publicly shuffle to their respective corners with their heads bowed, but pride demands redress, so the enemy of my enemy scenario becomes an option.  Of course, when you consider that the most powerful players in that wounded collective include the likes of the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild then you have to also factor in the secret goals of each and acknowledge them in every decision made.

For Muad'Dib there's compensation for the hard choices he must make, but the balance is cruel.  Being aware that the crutch of prescience his every waking hour relies upon is both what he needs and what he fears doesn't help.  Life is hard.

In some ways Messiah feels like a belated epilogue to the first book set twelve years after.  Likewise, the second half feels like a lengthy prelude to the third book, Children of Dune (1976).  Knowing that doesn't lessen the enjoyment of a reading but it should help prepare you for being assailed by an overpowering need to go direct to the following volume upon reaching the final page.

5 honest answers to difficult questions out of 5

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Sandman Presents: Thessaly - Witch for Hire (2005)

Author: Bill Willingham | Illustrator: Shawn McManus | Page Count:  96

"I refuse to be destroyed by something I've never heard of."

WFH picks up the story of the last of the Thessalian witches two years after the end of The Thessaliad (2002), a four issue miniseries that you can also find collected together in the Taller Tales (2003) TPB.  If you haven’t read it there’s some catch-up text at the beginning to get you up to speed.  If you have read it you’ll maybe remember the big unanswered question surrounding the supporting character.  Bill Willingham remembers it and expands upon it.

Fetch is back, like a bad smell carried by an ill-wind, with a complement of ideas above his station (his station being that he’s dead—that's not a spoiler for The Thessaliad).  He’s still lusting after the aeons-old witch, but his courtship methods are far from traditional.  Nevertheless, he persists, undeterred by the fact that what they both want from the ‘relationship’ differs greatly.

The ending could just as easily be seen as another beginning leading into a regular series, but that didn't happen.  Maybe the readership had grown tired of the Sandman spin-offs, or the writers had?  I don't know, but if the Dead Boy Detectives can make a comeback then there’s hope for Thessaly.

The book collects together all issues (1-4) of the second miniseries, The Sandman Presents: Thessaly - Witch for Hire.

3½ client confidentialities out of 5