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Prose is a Five-Letter Word

Brian Hibbs

(that title somehow made sense in my head)

Like I mentioned the other day, between school restarting, working on our September DC relaunch plans, a possible store remodel, us repainting the downstairs at our house, and what seems like 47 other “big” things happening at once, I’ve had a less time for reading comics.
It also doesn’t help that giant chunks of prose have been chucked at my head recently as well!

So, below the cut, some not-comics reading, even if it is related-to-comics!

THE COMICS JOURNAL #301: I really did miss TCJ. The deeply in-depth interviews, the in-depth criticism, and really more than anything else, the investigative reporting. We don’t have anything like that kind of what I think of as shoe leather reporting — long phone calls, attempts to look at issues from multiple sides, designed to examine and protect our field, rather than to score headlines in and of itself. Rich Johnston has taken over a tremendous amount of that role, but Rich comes from the Gossip Columnist angle, rather than Paper Of Record angle, so he runs a lot of shit that’s sensational for it’s own sake, and, far too often that’s wildly wrong or misinformed.

Heidi is mostly our Social Secretary, and the “news sites” (Robot 6, CBR, Comics Alliance, etc.) seem more interested in entertaining or opinionating then in really getting to the heart of news (which is fine — those are consumer entertainment sites, really).

I think Spurgeon (and, let me take a second to link you to his astonishing piece on his health problems if you haven’t already read it — all of the Savage Critics wish Tom very very well health indeed!) is the closest we have to Advocacy journalism, any longer, but I’d think even he’d admit he seldom uses Shoe Leather much in the (excellent!) work that he does.

I just sometimes daydream about what could have been if the Journal’s News mandate had continued to this day — I would have loved to read their in-depth coverage of, say, the Disney deal… or could you imagine what Michael Dean might have been able to get out of the DC reboot? Yeah, woulda been nice.

Damn, but I got off on a tangent there, didn’t I?

ANYway, like the Meatloaf song sez, two outta three ain’t so bad, as the Journal returns in a new bricklike bookshelf format (seriously, this thing has like 600 pages!), anchored by a massive Robert Crumb interview, and a whole freakin’ lot of really strong criticism. I most especially liked the Cerebus retrospective by Tim Krieder. Cerebus is one of those works that I think is 90% genius, but the bits that aren’t are really really hard. It was fascinating to see Krieder go through in a few weeks, the emotional range that some of us sustained for 25 years! I need to read Cerebus again, huh?

(I also miss the Cerebus Diablog where they petered out only by #11! Come back Laura, come back Leigh! You didn’t even start getting to the GOOD issues!)

Wow, digressive much?

Right, so, Journal, yes! Great great great read! I’d still love to see it be maybe quarterly in the 200 page range — there’s a lot of Interviews that could be happening, and a lot of posterity that needs to be captured — but this is way better than nothing. VERY GOOD

One last digression, which is actually kind of properly related. As some of you may know, Amazon really erred somehow with TCJ #301, and they offered preorders at a price that was about 20% BELOW their (and my!) wholesale price. Fantagraphics assures me THEY didn’t offer Amazon any kind of special deal or promotion, so that was all on Amazon itself.

Whatever, I’m not dumb, I ordered my copies from Amazon, instead of from Diamond, and chose the free (very very slow) shipping option.

We had our copies two weeks ago.

Diamond, as far as I can tell, STILL has not distributed TCJ #301 to the West Coast.

So cheaper than Diamond by 20%, AND I received it weeks earlier, go figure!


A DANCE OF DRAGONS: I’ve been a fan of George RR Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” long before “Game of Thrones” aired on HBO, and I really really really wonder what they’re going to do when they start getting to the parts of the book that simply CAN’T be filmed (or faked!) on the budget they’ll have. As is often (but not always) the case, as good as the adaptation is (and it’s really swell!), the original material is much much much better.

We’ve been waiting a really long time for this, book five, because of what Martin termed “the meereenese knot”, where a specific character find themselves in a specific place and simply wasn’t able to leave because of the nature of the character themselves.

To an extent, you can’t force plot on characters – plot should always stem FROM the characters, and some writers say that strong characters “write themselves”. I believe this to be true, especially in this case. This is the first one of these books where I could really see the scaffolding (surrounding Meereen). It’s not just the specific character, but everyone and everything related to it. Most of the Meereen stuff, I hate to say it, even some of the bits that I LIKED (Tyrion, in particular, takes the sharpest loss he has so far on a particular ride), probably should have been chucked… but they COULDN’T be because of what happened previously, and how a strong character with a strong POV simply wouldn’t let it.

The problem is solved… or, at least, is set upon the path to probably being solved, and the solution is non-terrible, but it’s still a little far from good to this reader. It does make for fascinating reading, however, playing “look for the welds”.

On the other hand, all of the stuff that WASN’T tied in the Knot? Awesome awesome material — maybe some of the strongest yet. In super particular, I nearly shuddered with joy when a certain sibling showed up about halfway through the book, and this one is rapidly becoming my favorite character.

Other than the Knot (which isn’t GRRM’s fault, per se), I was fairly outraged that he introduced a new claimant to the throne, one, who appears is legitimate, and not just a feint of some kind. I am firmly of the mind that it is far far far too late to be doing so, given the length of the narrative (and the idea that we’re finished in just two more books). It’s only like three chapters worth, but I was profoundly uneasy reading those, thinking “not FAIR!”

I think that GRRM is more likely to feint about who the leads really are, and what the battle and stakes even are in the first place (I largely think that the central question of who will sit on Westeros’ throne will be mostly irrelevant in another thousand pages or so), just like the big switch at the end of “Game of Thrones” itself.

Overall I want to give A DANCE WITH DRAGONS a mild GOOD, but there were absolutely parts that I thought were EXCELLENT.


(how was that for spoiler free, huh?)


As always, what did YOU think?



4 Responses to “ Prose is a Five-Letter Word ”

  1. Nice post! Have to agree TCJ needs to be cut down in size/price- I might like to read the Cerebus piece, but won’t at that price.

    Just finished Dance with Dragons myself, and thought it was the first one where the plot was really moving, picking up speed. Knot solved, major plans unfolding, and every character was left hanging in an interesting place.

    Unlike you I didn’t have a problem with the late reveal of that new claimant, given the back story. It’s been clear to me that the characters involved in the hiding had agendas that were long term and not revealed to the reader. I saw this as the revelation of those long term plots and schemes, and was happy with it.

  2. I think Dance suffered quite a bit from the original split from Feast for Crows. It really feels like half of that book smushed together with half of what would have been the next book. The HBO series will get to run the events of Feast and Dance in their proper order, so I think that stretch of the show will end up better than the books.

    There was enough ground work in previous books setting up the new guy that I buy it as part of the original plan, though I agree it really does seem late in the game to be bringing him in. I do like the group of characters he’s with.

    Hopefully the next book is a little easier for GRRM to crank out. I can see people pulling their hair out if they have to wait five years to see the fallout from some of these cliffhangers.

  3. Interesting; I ordered it thru Amazon, and they cancelled it a while back. Oh, well.

  4. A Dance With Dragons continued the downward slide in quality of the series to me. Daenerys chapters were always a chore to get through, but they were easily even worse this time. I didn’t need 10 chapters of Daenerys in Meereen accomplishing nothing. There was also too much of certain characters up north doing stupid things because GRRM needed them to do something for plot related reasons. The Theon chapters were a lot of fun, and the Bran chapters were interesting, but so much of the book could have been tightened up.

    Hopefully this is just a case of GRRM needing to get his pieces in order (I remember him one time saying that he had envisioned a 5 year gap in story time, maybe this meandering is taking the place of the gap), and hopefully not a case of GRRM contracting Jordanitis.

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