The kind of story that really makes you hate humanity. Also the kind that really needs to be told

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K Vaughan, Niko Henrichon and Todd Klein

Spoilers: I’m gonna talk about the end of this book in this blog post. That’s cool, most people I know won’t read it anyway.

This is a beautifully illustrated, incredibly gory story about four lions who live in the Baghdad zoo. Zill is the male, who was quite young when he was captured. Safa is an old lioness who spent most of her life in the wild and who embraces the easy food and the protection from violence and rape that she enjoys in the zoo. Noor hates  her life in a cage and spends most of her time trying to convince the other animals to help  her escape. Ali is Noor’s cub, young, born in the zoo and confused by the conflicting history he gets from the adults in his life. Their world is completely thrown into chaos when the Americans bomb Baghdad and the zoo is destroyed.

Now the worst part of the story is that it’s based on a true one.

Hungry and confused the four lions venture out into the city, looking for food and safety.

Their portrayal is an amazing combination of animal and human.  Safa’s hesitation about the ethics of eating a dead human when they find a body and are desperately hungry is a beautiful moment. Their relationship with the other animals that they encounter blends animal instinct with surprising humanity. From their complex perspectives the horrors of war and environmental devastation are senseless and horrifying.

Don’t get me wrong. The animal world is violent, with one depiction of rape, constant violence between them and then the drive to hunt and kill but this seems unavoidable and reasonable compared to what the people do. The lions fight and kill to protect themselves and eat and survive while there’s  no explanation at all for the tanks and bombs and machine guns.

By far the most devastating part is the end, when all the lions are killed by American troops. Zill was shot first. Safa tries to fight the army off, to give Noor and Ali a chance to escape but is torn apart by a machine gun. Noor and Ali are killed almost immediately afterwards.

The moment that I really felt was when Noor, after watching Safa get literally shredded, screams “Animals! You goddamn…” before she and her son are gunned down.

Like War Horse and Faithful Elephants, this is a horrible story about how humanity’s tendency to self destruct is harmful to everyone, not just the people involved.

I think that’s important.

Last movie I watched: Iron Man 3.

Last TV episode I watched: NEWSROOM IS AWESOME

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Scariest Batman ever

The New 52 Batman The Dark Knight: Vol 2 Cycle of Violence by Gregg Hurwitz and David Finch

Fear is always a major part of Batman. It’s just a thing. It’s actually a really cool thing. And probably part of why people read are still so interested in it. ‘Cause we’re all still scared of something. The bad guys – insanity, irrationality, genius misused, the unpredictable nature of humans and the violence we commit against each other, lack of empathy, fear itself. The good guys – obviously Batman uses fear as a weapon. The average Batman comic has everyone trying to scare everyone else and everyone else trying to overcome their fears.

With this knowledge I was reasonably prepared for this book.

Only I wasn’t ’cause it was terrifying.

The villain is the Scarecrow who, despite his name and kind of alarming power of making everyone else afraid, has never been the top of my list of scary Batman villains. Until now.

So this book is a little light on the plot and heavy on the nightmare fuel. Which is probably why it wasn’t my favourite (I likes me some plot). This whole book is devoted to Batman trying to stop Scarecrow from kidnapping children for his experiments on fear. Shocking to no one I’m sure, Batman eventually finds him, is exposed to a lot of fear gas and trauma but ultimately survives and wins the day.

Highlights include Damian making a brief appearance and rescuing Bruce, followed by a beautiful scene when Bruce wakes up and Bruce’s lame attempts at having a girlfriend. The rest was pretty much back story, heavy on the emotional and physical torture of children and I don’t wanna talk about it.

Not my favourite. Good enough I guess, but really, not my favourite.

Last movie I watched: Still the first 8 minutes of Iron Man 3. Seriously, it’s uncanny how many times I’ve seen the first 8 minutes and not the rest.

Last TV episode I watched: NEWSROOM IS AMAZING

Insert pun about the silver spoon here

Cat’s Cradle Book I: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux

Cat’s Cradle was an impulse buy when I was waiting for a friend and had run out of things to read. I have no idea if there are more (I assume there will be?) and know nothing about it. Which is a little unusual for me these days. I guess I spend too much time hanging out with books.

Anyway, this is a delightful little graphic novel for kids. It’s the story of Suri, a young girl who dreams of being, and pretends to be, a monster hunter. But everything changes when her stories and her bragging get her a magic ball of twine. Twine that the monsters will do anything to get back.

I totally loved it. Suri is a likable, powerful but also flawed heroine whose mistakes drive the plot in a genuine and hilarious way. The cast of secondary characters is epic and delightful. Not an awful lot happens as far as the plot goes, but it’s a short book and obviously with a graphic novel you need a lot of space to get through not a lot of story. Still, its a charming beginning with lots of potential to grow into exciting places. The pictures are lovely, with a sort of subdued colour theme, pretty simple but very pretty.

It’s also fairly gender neutral. The main character is a girl but the lack of enthusiastic pink  splattered all over the cover and  the fantasy/monster story line is totally fun for boys. Or at least I think it is. What do I know? I’m not a boy. But I do really like Batman and I think boys would like it. Overall: Recommend for everyone.

I mean, mostly kids but like… anyone else can read it to.

Last movie I watched: Small amount of Iron Man 3

Last TV episode I watched: NEWSROOM IS AMAZING

A YA novel with pictures! Seriously. But it’s actually just a novel. I swear

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson is awesome. ‘Cause he wrote for Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians. Less so because he’s responsible for ghost writing the practically endless and extremely painful Wheel of Time series.

So when I saw his YA novel I was like “Hey! That’s probably going to a combination of the awesomeness of his kids stuff and the monotony of that stupid adult series! Let’s give that a go!”

And it was, although definitely leaning closer to the awesome and further from the monotony. Sure, it wasn’t as funny as Alcatraz or as genre savvy but it was still compelling, driven, reasonably surprising and generally pretty fun.

Which is great ’cause they’ll be another one eventually.

So this is the story of Joel, who is the son of a chalkmaker and a cleaning lady at Armedius Academy. He’s only able to attend the school at all because of a scholarship the Principle granted to Joel after Joel’s father was killed. But Joel isn’t that interested in school, just Rithmatics. Despite not being a Rithmatist himself, Joel is very good at it, and his pursuit of his passion will throw him into a dangerous world he never could have predicted.

So the story’s interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is the story and the characters and the world. The story doesn’t move along at breakneck speed or anything but its solid and interesting and fairly surprising, as well as very creepy at a few points. The characters were well developed and complex. Joel is genuine, likable but not perfect. Melody, the potential love interest (although I’d respect Sanderson way more if they never hook up) is three dimensional, quirky and kind of my favourite. The book is full of great mentor figures (and one teacher who’s a little like Snape). The world is an alternate United States with some steampunk awesomeness, some scientific magic and a complicated political system.

The other thing that’s really interesting is Rithmancy itself, which is a form of combat that depends on drawings. It’s a neat mix of math (angles, circles, straight lines) and art (chalklings,  are more powerful the more detailed they are) that is used to defend the country from the wild chalklings, who rip the flesh off of people. The mythology behind Rithmancy is well developed and pretty amazing.

There were pictures though. Of how to do Rithmancy. It’s still a great read.

Last movie I watched: The first few minutes of Iron Man 3. Which I’ve tried to watch several times and just never been able to get through it .Maybe we’re not meant to be.

Last TV show I watched: Most of a Glee episode. Glee, how did you get so terrible? In other news, Jane Lynch sang “Little Girls” so that was awesome.