Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Several months ago, I went and saw the movie Ready Player One and I enjoyed it a great deal. I wound up looking for books to read and decided to pick up the book Ready Player One (science fiction 372 pages) by Ernest Cline.

“In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines – puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he find himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win – and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”

So this is probably one of the only times when I can say that I actually liked the movie better than the book, even though the book came first. Usually, I have this thing I’ve noticed that whichever came first is usually better and usually the books come first. So in this case, the book was published in 2011 and the movie came out in 2018 and I actually did enjoy the movie a lot more.

Here’s why:

(Oh, and if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie and you want to not have either spoiled for you, you’re best off not reading this review until you’ve seen the movie and read the book).

Art3mis/Samantha is absolutely a more flushed out character in the book and Parzival/Wade takes a long time developing a crush on her in the book. Actually, looking back on the movie, Parzival/Wade did mention that he’d been following everything that Art3mis/Samantha posted for years but the movie didn’t have the time or necessity to flush that out other than to just mentioning it in passing. I also really liked how in the book, Art3mis was the very first person to find the first clue and how she was able to work on the clue while still keeping the entire area a secret.

The publication date on the book is actually a pretty heavy influence on why I think I liked the movie better than the book. It’s interesting to me exactly how much can change in such a short amount of time, but the technological changes and the societal changes are actually notable in this case. I feel a little bit like the movie captured more of the fun of gaming and how the OASIS was never meant to be a one-person game. The movie had a lot more team work and a lot more times when the “High Five” were shown as actual friends but the book had them as competitors almost the whole time. The movie also had a diverse cast across different age groups instead of everyone being from high school. In the movie, Aech is definitely not in high school and neither is Sho, as he’s only 11. Aech was absolutely my favorite character in the movie and was given a lot more background in the book. I really liked Aech’s mechanic shop in the movie and I wasn’t as fond of Aech’s highest ranked combatant skills as much, though I did like the twist that Aech was great at slaughtering all the other players in combat and no one knew that Aech wasn’t just some guy. I did like the twist in the book quite a lot, actually. I also liked in the movie that Aech was the one who called the authorities after getting the confession in the workshop.

To me, this book feels like the main character was a 30-something year-old man and not a teenager. I didn’t really get the sense of immaturity or uncertainty that tends to be prevalent in the younger generations and Wade had a lot more confidence than I would have expected. Wade had no issues with leaving his physical living area, setting up a false identity, and moving basically across a barren wasteland all by himself and no one seemed to question the fact that he was clearly a teenager? As I’ve gotten older myself, I’ve noticed that teenagers clearly look like teenagers. Unless in this dystopian future, everyone is in such dire straits that everyone just looks older and more worn out? But I constantly questioned Wade’s age in the book.

I will say that the challenges and world-building in the novel are very different and very interesting. Obviously, a movie-going audience doesn’t have time to sit through the entire Monty Python movie, nor War Games which is why those were the challenges in the book. The movie also needed to change the challenges in order to match the pacing of a movie and to add a ticking clock to the mix. I also liked the idea of having to use the treadmill to exercise before it would let you into the OASIS. It was really neat. If I could power my binge-watching of shows via walking on the treadmill or being on the stationary bike, I would absolutely do that and probably spend more time binge-watching or playing games while I walked on the treadmill.

The book was interesting. I did buy it and I might read it again at some point in the future. Overall, I’d say the book is probably a high two on my rating scale. While it had a lot more interesting references and I knew absolutely everything mentioned in the book, I was still a little disappointed that this wonderful bit of 80s lore didn’t include anything from the pop culture that didn’t include men. And I really liked the team work aspect of the movie over the lone competitor aspect of the book.

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Movie Review: The Incredibles 2

I was at something of loose ends yesterday so I went to see The Incredibles 2 last night after I went climbing and got some food.

“Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is left to care for Jack-Jack while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world.”

I think this is another example of how trailers are not necessarily a positive thing because they show pretty much the entire plot, all the really funny scenes, and give you an anticipated conclusion to the movie before you actually see the movie. While the first trailers I saw made me extremely excited to see this movie and let me know that the movie was coming out and when, some of the best parts of the movie were in the trailers, which to me took some of the fun away from the movie itself. Another contributing factor to my movie-going experience were the two women in the row in front of mine who spent the entire movie on their cell phones, specifically on facebook, browsing celebrity crap the whole time. It makes me sad that people can’t unplug from their devices long enough to enjoy a really well-done movie.

As a note, this movie is absolutely not safe for those with epilepsy, as there are a lot of scenes with unpredictable strobes.

This review will contain spoilers so if you want to be surprised by the movie you might want to wait until you’ve seen it before reading the review itself.

This movie had a lot of really great positive things going for it and I really enjoyed it. Bob and Helen had a lot of relatable relationships issues and the movie touched the surface of daily sexism. At the beginning of the movie, Bob is clearly and woefully unsuited to parenting, as that has always been more of Helen’s responsibility. Bob is intent on doing well, however, so he does the extra work to be able to help Dash with his homework and repair the damage to Violet’s relationship. He realizes he’s in over his head in regards to Jack-Jack and asks for assistance from his friends, which gives him enough to start making a positive impact. One of the best parts about Bob’s parenting is that when Jack-Jack starts revealing powers, Bob doesn’t try to take away or deny the baby’s powers. Instead, the whole family chips in to work to help Jack-Jack control his own powers.

Between this movie and Ramage from several weekends ago, I feel like I’m seeing a lot more movies with rich siblings where it’s actually the sister who is the evil mastermind behind the entire world domination plot. While I did feel as though the Screenslaver was and interesting and unique villain, I also feel as though Elastigirl was well-portrayed by showing exactly how much foresight and intellectual labor goes into being a super hero. She didn’t just fight the villains, but used her brain to put together a lot of the little pieces of the villains’ plans. I feel a lot like we don’t often see anything other than people just fighting the villains in modern super hero stories so it was nice to have that kind of intellectual portion. Though, I did also feel that the Screenslaver had to be backed by someone who knew what was going on. In order for super heroes to be seen in a positive light, there has to be people for them to save and villains for them to fight.

Overall, this movie is easily a solid three on my rating scale. The movie was fun with great characters and a good storyline. I am highly likely to buy it when it comes out on video and will happily watch it again.

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Movie Review: Love, Simon

“Everyone deserves a great love story. But for seventeen-year-old Simon Spier it’s a bit complicated: he’s yet to tell his family for friends he’s gay and he doesn’t actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he’s fallen for online.”

I think this was the first coming of age and romance movie produced specifically with a non-hetereonorm story in mind. I have a lot of positive things to say about this movie so this review might get rather lengthy and is likely to be nothing but spoilers so if you haven’t seen the movie and you would rather have certain parts be unpredictable, I suggest you save the reading of this review for once you have seen the movie.

So one of the very first things I will talk about is how emotionally intense this entire movie is. Some of it is really, really good emotions with a happy ending at the end, some are absolute cringe-worthy due to public humiliation, some is sheer amusement in watching high school drama as an almost-forty-something-year-old adult, and some are genuinely heart-wrenching because of how wrong some things in life go.

There are several scenes which are horribly uncomfortable for me because of the insane level of public humiliation, most especially, when Martin steals the microphone during the national anthem at homecoming and confesses his feelings to Abby. While I do appreciate how much courage it took for Martin to do that in front of the whole school, he also embarrassed Abby and put her in a really uncomfortable position where she had to publicly admit her own feelings. The vice principal partially showed some of the mentality of toxic masculinity where he is cheering for Abby to accept Martin’s proposal of dating and this whole situation could have gone very badly. However, he turned the entire situation around by encouraging the school to cheer for Martin, even though he was unsuccessful in his dating request. That vice principal turned around the entire tone of the rejection and made it just another part of growing up instead of a total tragedy. Society right now seems to enable white males to go on a shooting spree when they are rejected by women and I was worried that this movie would have done that, but instead, Martin became a gradually likeable character who understood that what he did was wrong and he tried to make amends for his mistake(s). So when Abby rejects Martin’s dating proposal, Martin is understandably upset and he lashes out in hurt and frustration by posting Simon’s secret gayness to the internet. This event triggers the key turning points for the rest of the movie, with Simon’s friends realizing how much harm he’d caused them and leaving him to deal with everything on his own and Simon losing the only ability he has to communicate with Blue, the other young gay man he’s fallen in love with online.

The other cringey moment for me was when Martin, Abby, and Simon are at the Waffle House and Martin, again, publicly humiliates Abby by standing on the table and being vocal until she say’s that she deserves a super hero. While the end result is that Martin is attempting to do something positive and get Abby to reaffirm that she is fantastic and deserves the best, the delivery leads a bit to be desired.

The characters in this movie were all very well done and felt truly genuine. It was interesting to see a high school coming of age story as viewed from the eyes of an adult, as the adults in this movie behave admirably. The vice principal is amusing in his interactions with the students because he is trying to be someone the students can talk to and yet is still a positive voice of authority. The first day back at school when he sees Simon enter the school, he’s wearing a rainbow flag pin on his lapel. I think he did that in order to show support for Simon and to let him know that school is a safe place to be who you are. Additionally, Ms. Albright was absolutely relatable. As someone who is likely to wind up teaching at some point, I can see a lot of myself in Ms. Albright. She stands up to the student bullies and is hilarious in her depiction of the limits of her occupation. She also mentions very adult problems which amused me greatly.

Martin was a very interesting character. I thought he was going to wind up being a typical, high school movie bully, but instead, it just turns out that he’s a bit socially awkward. He even has a part where Simon goes to his house and Martin specifically says that he doesn’t want Simon’s help changing him but rather that he wants Simon’s help to get Abby to see and like him for who he is. That is also a very powerful statement. You shouldn’t have to change who you are for people to like you but you also should accept rejection when someone just isn’t into you. Martin’s character really grows on you as you realize how hard he’s trying and that he isn’t the high school bully that he could have been if this was a normal high school movie.

Simon, as the main character, went through a lot during this movie. The parts where he was outted by someone else and how he had to deal with the discrimination at school were some of the roughest parts of the movie. I don’t think that anyone who isn’t “other” would really understand how scary and hard that whole section is, but if you’ve ever been someone other than the “standard heteronorm”, the idea or experience of being outted on someone else’s terms is really horrifying. Modern society right now is not exactly a safe place for anyone who is “other” to live and this movie captured the raw emotions exceptionally well. I very much empathized with Simon’s situation, his motivations for doing what he did to his friends, and with his emotional turmoil.

This movie brought up a lot of mixed feeling and thoughts. One of my thoughts revolve around how we live in a disposable society. When Simon is outted and his friends are hurt, they cut him out of their lives. They don’t make any effort to welcome him or to be supportive that is shown on the screen. Instead, Simon goes to pick them up as normal, and they all say how hurt they are and he is left to go to school on his own. He doesn’t even try to sit with them at lunch because he realizes that he hurt them and they don’t want him around. They leave him alone to get bullied and be hurt. We live in a fully disposable culture right now where when people hurt us, we can, and often do, just cut those people out of our lives. While there is definitely a time to cut out toxic people from our lives, how much are we as a society losing by cutting out anyone who has ever hurt us from our lives? I have made and will likely continue to make a lot of mistakes, especially in regards to my interpersonal relationships, and it feels like no matter how much I change, no matter how hard I work, no matter how much I love, I drive away everyone I care about because I hurt them. I am human. Eventually, I will hurt and be hurt by the people in my life. That’s how things go. So while Simon did eventually mend everything with his friends, it’s been my experience in my own life that things don’t generally work out that way for me. Maybe I just don’t deserve it. Maybe people are too afraid of being hurt. I honestly don’t know. But I very much appreciated that Simon got all his friends back into his life by the end of the movie, as well as actually making a connection with the person he loves. Even though all of this feels completely unrealistic for me, I really needed to watch something with a totally happy ending.

Overall, I think this movie is a high four if not a five on my rating scale. I have left this movie on repeat since I bought it last night. I am absolutely happy that I bought it, I have already watched it repeatedly, and am likely to watch it more in the future.

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Currently Reading Book Tag

While I was not tagged for this, I did find it over at Odd and Bookish. It looked like fun so I’m going to do it 🙂

1. How many books do you usually read at once?

I can only read one book at a time, but I definitely will binge and entire series back-to-back.

2. If you’re reading more than one book at a time, how do you decide when to switch books?

The only time I read more than one book at a time is when I’m reading something for fun and then I have to read things for work. Usually, I will switch books when the work reading gets too boring or dry and then I will read something for fun until I can get back in the right mood for work reading.

3. Do you ever switch bookmarks while you’re partway through a book?

I don’t even have a dedicated bookmark. I know I do actually own real bookmarks but I am more likely to use whatever is located nearby to mark my place in a book. Right now, that is video game notes on an old computer game I’m working on with a friend.

4. Where do you keep the book(s) you’re currently reading?

Usually on the ottoman next to the couch but sometimes on the breakfast bar.

5. What time of day do you spend the most time reading?

Since I have a job with regular and mostly predictable hours, I read in the evenings and weekends.

6. How long do you typically read in one sitting?

I will read until the book is finished.

7. Do you read hardbacks with the dust jacket on or off?

Any hardbacks I read are always with the dust jacket on so I can use the cover for a bookmark.

8. What position do you mainly use to read?

I will read however I am comfortable and since I generally read a book in one sitting, I change positions rather frequently.

9. Do you take the book you’re currently reading with you everywhere you go?

No. My books tend to stay at home unless I’m travelling and then I might take it with me.

10. How often do you update your Goodreads progress on the book you’re currently reading?

This is probably a really horrible thing to say as both a reader and writer, but I don’t even have a Goodreads account.

I tag…

I don’t actually tag people for things because I figure that if anyone is out there and they want to participate, they are free to do so, but will feel no pressure from me to do so 🙂

Thanks for reading and feel free to drop me a note and say hi 🙂

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Movie Review: Rampage

Last weekend, I went and saw Ramage which turned out a lot more entertaining than I originally thought it would be.

“When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.”

There really aren’t any surprises in this movie. If you want to watch this movie, you’re probably going to see some mindless action and destruction of a city, and you absolutely won’t be disappointed. There is definitely a lot of violence, destruction, and action. Oddly, the plot is more feasible and plausible than I thought it would be and this movie might wind up pretty high on my list of favorite action movies because it skipped the annoying romantic subplot. In fact, Davis Okoye could easily be seen as asexual, given how absolutely disinterested he is in flirting or hooking up with other characters in the movie. While I doubt that Davis is actually asexual because that would imply that someone who makes movies would want to include that kind of diverse and specific representation, I do think it’s very easy for him to be asexual. I know it’s very unrealistic to use Davis as some sort of wish-fulfillment representation because we all know that actually asexual characters just don’t exist in movies but I really still just want to pretend.

Just let me have my fantasies, k?

I also really appreciated Dr. Kate Caldwell’s backstory and her as a character. She was clearly running late for a job and her excuse for why she wasn’t there yet amused me greatly, especially where she was distracted and said she was in her car and said that the car in front of her exploded. She was a competent scientist and also a decent human being who wanted to make the world a better place. I feel like she reacted very reasonably to everything that happened in this movie and that she did a good job of bringing at least the illusion of science into this movie. I also like seeing smart women of color on the screen with amazing intellectual backstories and capabilities.

Overall, I think I would rate this movie a high two or maybe even a very low three on my rating scale. I can’t really fault the movie for providing me exactly the entertainment I was looking for and the only reason I wouldn’t watch it more frequently is because of the very predictability which motivated me to go see it in the first place. Kind of a hypocritical statement, I know, but I am only human after all 🙂

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Graphic Novel Review: Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 2

One of the big motivations for me reading Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 1 last weekend was because I found Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 2 at my local bookstore late last week and wanted to see how the story progressed.

“Kyle Rayner is the last Green Lantern. After Hal Jordan’s reign of terror on the Green Lantern Corps, Ganthet, the lone surviving Guardian, bequeathed Kyle the final power ring. The ring and legacy of the Corps now live on with Kyle Rayner. Defending the Earth on countless occasions and saving the universe from Hal Jordan, Kyle has earned his place among the greatest Green Lanterns. However, Hal Jordan has returned. Refusing to accept responsibility for his actions, Hal looks to reclaim his mantle as the Green Lantern. With his sights set on Kyle Rayner’s power ring, Hal will take it back by any means necessary.”

The chronological portion of this compilation covers from January 1995 through September 1995. Unlike the previous compilation Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 1, this volume didn’t have any comics or storylines I recognized, either from my youth or from my own readings in the last several years. As this was an all new series of stories for me, I think I probably had very different reactions than I tend to have for stories familiar to me. This entire storyline takes place after the Death of Superman and the Return of Superman, which I have every original comic book from both series so it’s also interesting to see some of the familiar characters from those events, such as Steel.

The moral stories included in this compilation had a lot of weight to them. When Guy Gardner/Warrior and Kyle face off against the Quorum and Major Force, the mercenary who murdered Alexandra DeWitt in Green Lantern volume 3 #54, Kyle is given the opportunity to kill Major Force and he doesn’t take it. Instead, Guy Gardner/Warrior snaps Major Force’s neck. Kyle tries to express why this was wrong and how it’s not right for them as heroes to use their powers to be judge, jury, and executioner, no matter how many painful and horrible things someone may have done. After reading everything Kyle’s been through so far, I feel as though fans of the series would have understood if Kyle had killed Major Force but I think that it’s out of character for him to have done so, which is exactly the action Kyle took in this situation.

Green Lantern vol. 3 #62 (May 1995). Writer: Ron Marz; Pencils: Darryl Banks, Joe St. Pierre; Inks: Romeo Tanghal; Colors: Steve Mattsson; Letters: Albert Deguzman.

I really like Kyle and Donna’s interaction in this compilation. I like how in Green Lantern 62, Donna is trying to help Kyle understand that he needs to be more than just his ring; that he needs to be able to function without it. So she takes him running and then she fends off potential muggers just through her hand-to-hand capability while Kyle is fully dependent upon his Green Lantern ring. This compilation also explores a lot of the budding relationship between Kyle and Donna and I think their relationship is a healthy one, for all that both Donna and Kyle are at rather inconvenient times in their relationship lives. If the comic book timeline is the same as the release dates, then Kyle only lost Alex less than nine months or so previous to dating Donna, which isn’t bad and I’m not sure how far into the dating scene Kyle and Donna are at this point. I remember Donna and Kyle starting to be interested in each other near the end of Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 01, but this is clearly the part of the relationship where both Kyle and Donna have been hurt in the past and aren’t as willing to extend their hearts again. Kyle still loves and misses Alex and that’s a feeling that will be with him for the rest of his life and Donna is working through a messy custody battle involving her son. Even through this, I think Kyle and Donna are good partners and augment each other well.

The first storyline focused a lot on Kyle’s work to incorporate himself as a Titan, Kyle’s relationship with Ganthet, and the continuous battle to either defeat Hal Jordan or convince Hal Jordan to be a little less like a major villain and a little more like a minor hero. I’m not sure how I feel about Ganthet bringing in many of Hal’s friends from the past, including Green Arrow, Flash, Hawkman, Aquaman, Martian, and eventually Superman. I feel like there was just too much melodrama for Kyle to just take a serious beating and then talk Hal down. Did the Justice League really need to show up and fight for at least one entire comic just for Kyle to talk him down and then Ganthet to trap Hal in his own mind of happy memories? This just seems like something that’s going to go badly in the long run and will only make Hal more difficult to deal with when he finally breaks free from his mental prison, which will eventually happen.

The Seige of the Zi Charram brought up a really interesting series of moral issues and it’s things like this that make me annoyed at “comic book fans” who are annoyed with how “political” comics have become in our modern times and how they don’t like “that social justice warrior crap” in their entertainment venues. These comic books came out in 1995 and had significant life-changing knowledge in the pages of entertainment. The Titans find themselves transported into the middle of a war between the Progenitors and every other alien species residing in that particular part of the universe. The Zi Charram devised a way to sterilize the entire Progenitor species, which would essentially be genocide to the entire population. The Zi Charram believe in only two courses of action: either they themselves are overrun by the Progenitors or they commit genocide via sterilization in order to stop the Progenitor invasion, occupation, and destruction of the Zi Charram. The Titans refuse to be part of this plan and instead find a way to save the Zi Charram and convince the Progenitors to leave peaceably instead of making things worse. This really struck a chord with me because of how often people are led to believe that there are only two sides to a conflict and therefore only two resolutions, which is not the case. The world is full of various shades of gray area and other times where you can do everything right and still have things fall apart.

Life’s funny that way.

The more I read of Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern, the more I enjoy both this character and the stories portrayed in this series. While there was a few times when I’m clearly missing parts of the story because I don’t have the comic books referenced in this compilation, I was still able to follow the jist of things rather well. Overall, I would rate this as a solid four on my rating scale; I’m happy that I read it, I’m happy that I own it, and I will definitely continue to buy any more of these which come out in the future.

Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Vol. 2 collects (in chronological order) for the first time ever Green Lantern 58-65, Guy Gardner: Warrior 27-28, the New Titans 124-125, the Darkstars 34 and Damage 16 from Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal, comics creators who reinvented Green Lantern for a new generation! Writers: Ron Marz, Beau Smith, Marv Wolfman, Michael Jan Friedman, Tom Joyner; Pencillers: Darryl Banks, Mitch Byrd, William Rosado, Jason Armstrong, Mike Collins, Ron Lim, Bill Marimon, Andy Smith, Mark Bright, Cully Hamner, Fred Haynes, Joe St. Pierre; Inkers: Romeo Tanghal, Dan Davis, Keith Champagne, Ken Branch, Terry Austin, Mike DeCarlo, Jordi Ensign, Jason Martin, Phyllis Novin; Colorists: Steve Mattsson, Stu Chaifetz, Chris Matthys, Rob Schwager, Joshua Myers, Buzz Setzer; Letterers: Albert Deguzman, Bob Pinaha; Collection cover art by Darryl Banks, Romeo Tanghal and Wes Hartman; Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster; Supergirl based on the characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family; the New Teen Titans created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez; Major Force created by Cary Bates, Greg Weisman and Pat Broderick; Kalibak created by Jack Kirby; Sldge created by Mitch Byrd and Stephen Smith; Damage created by Tom Joyner and Bill Marimon.

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Graphic Novel Review: Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 01

Several weeks ago while browsing one of my local bookstores, I came across Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 01 (graphic novel 343 pages). I’ve read several of the Kyle Rayner comic books before and was curious to read his story.

“Hal Jordan had been Earth’s Green Lantern – a proud hero in an even prouder tradition. But even heroes have their limits, and when his hometown of Coast City was destroyed by Mongul, Hal Jordan reached his. When refused the power to change the past by the Green Lantern Corps’ creators, something inside Hal snapped. He crossed the line he had sworn he never would, and stripped the Guardians of the Universe and their legendary Green Lantern Corps of every shred of power they had, killing many of them in the process. He became a man consumed with his own rage, and an era of heroism ended. The ring and legend of the Corps, however, would not be extinguished. The lone surviving Guardian has come to Earth and bequeathed the final power ring to a young man named Kyle Rayner. With it, a new chapter in the legacy of Green Lantern has begun. But this time, there’s no one to train the new bearer of the ring, and he must learn to wield it in a trial by fire against some of the DC Universe’s most powerful threats!”

This storyline started in January 1994, which was when I was in my prime comic book reading part of my younger days. I was never a fan of DC Comics because I felt as though most of their super heroes already started out as someone extraordinary. Batman was rich and had endless resources, Superman’s home planet genetics grants him powers from Earth’s yellow sun, Aquaman was the king of the seas, etc., and it never really felt to me as though DC Comics represented the same kind of “average person” hero that Marvel Comics. I never really gave DC Comics a chance.

And then there’s Kyle Rayner.

While this compilation of Kyle Rayner’s story doesn’t introduce Kyle Rayner as the new Green Lantern until Green Lantern 50 in 1994, the story builds up with Hal Jordan’s desire to find the power to bring Coast City back to life. Coast City was Hal Jordan’s home and its destruction caused him inconsolable grief. Hal Jordan destroys the Green Lantern Corps and takes all of their rings, then destroys the Guardians on OA. With the last of their power and energy, a lone Guardian finds Kyle Rayner in an alley and presents him with the last Green Lantern ring.

Green Lantern vol. 3 #50 (March 1994). Art by Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal.

I’ve read dialogue about how Kyle was told what he needed to hear in order to become a hero and I’ve also read people who thought that the Guardian really didn’t have a plan when giving the ring to Kyle. Either way, when the Guardian gave Kyle the ring, Kyle had to make the choice about what to do with it. Kyle showed up to his ex girlfriend’s apartment in the middle of the night and she was smart enough to realize what the ring meant and what he should do about it. This was the introduction of Alexandra DeWitt, and also the introduction of a very specific trope, Stuffed into the Fridge. Alex changed Kyle’s life and helped him understand what it means to be a hero. She taught him about self-sacrifice, caring about others, and responsibility. As a professional photographer, she also did a number of photo shoots with the new Green Lantern in order to get recognition for Kyle’s version of the new Green Lantern from earth. She takes pictures of Kyle defeating Ohm and teaming up with Superman to defeat Mongul and she helps give Kyle ideas on how to use the ring. She unleashes his creativity and shows him how to think bigger in order to actually make a difference. She’s a remarkable person, so naturally she’s killed in order to further the lead male protagonist’s story.

Green Lantern vol 3 #57 (December 1994). Ron Marz – story; Darryl Banks – pencils; Romeo Tanghal – inks; Steve Mattsson – color; Albert de Guzman – letters; Eddie Berganza – drunk with power; Kevin Dooley – him too.

I could say a lot about Alexandra DeWitt and I might have some ideas about how she would have made an amazing Green Lantern. So even though she was killed almost as soon as she was introduced, she has a longterm and positive impact on Kyle’s transformation into a hero, and he is by far my favorite of the Green Lanterns.

Kyle seems to have problems with women rather frequently in this first volume of Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner. In Green Lantern 56 from November 1994, Kyle is adrift in space, trying to find his way back to earth, and he hooks up with former Green Lantern, Adara. She sleeps with him, then steals his ring. When he tracks her down to get his ring back, she said it didn’t work for her, but it was such an important part of her identity that when he walks away, she kills herself.

Kyle is the first truly vulnerable hero I can recall seeing in the comic book world. He visits Alex’s grave to talk to her a little bit about how his life is going and some of the things he’s done. He tells her about how he should have done better and there were so many things that he should have told her. And then he mentions how he’s going to move to New York and follow his dreams about becoming a more established graphic artist and building a new name and face for Green Lantern. Even though she’s gone from his life, she encouraged him to follow his dreams. I think that says more about Kyle’s character than anything else. He has dreams of doing something other than tying his entire identity to being Green Lantern and when he confronts Hal Jordan in Green Lantern 0 in October 1994, when he sees Hal’s pain, he gives up his ring. Kyle saw how much Hal being in a Green Lantern meant to him and Kyle wanted to believe Hal was still that hero he’d grown up watching.

Kyle believes in people. He believes in people so much that he tries to talk to people and follow his heart. He tries his best to do better at being a super hero and earning his Green Lantern ring. When he makes mistakes, he owns those mistakes and tries to make amends. When he visits Alex’s grave, he says good-bye and he cries. This very masculine hero breaks down and cries. The first three pages of this comic, Green Lantern #57 from December 1994, were heart-breaking because of how hard saying good-bye to someone you love, who has changed so much of your life, can be, especially when you know you should have done better by them. He mentions that he always forgets her birthday but that he always remembered that roses were her favorite. I think that says a lot about how relationships really work, where you may not remember the things you’re supposed to but that you still know and love your partner.

I read several of the early Kyle Rayner comics in the last several years and I saw Kyle Rayner’s distinct Green Lantern symbol as a tattoo on the forearm of one of my coworkers and that encouraged a discussion about how Kyle Rayner is the only super hero who made the choice to become a super hero. He also had to learn to be a hero all on his own, especially after Alex was murdered. While he did have his memories of her to help him with making decisions he believed would make her proud, he had no Guardians or other Green Lanterns to provide him any guidance. He didn’t have anyone to call when he needed help and he didn’t have any friends to talk with about how he didn’t feel worthy of the Green Lantern ring, but he still made the best decisions he could and he still followed his heart.

He is the most relatable super hero I’ve read. His story resonates very heavily with me. Overall, I would rate this as a solid four on my rating scale. I am absolutely thrilled that DC Comics has compiled Kyle Rayner’s story into a convenient graphic novel, they clearly labelled them with volume numbers, and put the story in chronological order. I am happy that I own this book, I am highly likely to reread this story again, and I am definitely going to read and buy the next books in the series.

Kyle Rayner’s debut as Green Lantern. Cover of Green Lantern vol. 3 #51 (May 1994). Art by Darryl Banks.

Green Lantern: Kyle Rayner Volume 1 collects (in chronological order) for the first time ever Green Lantern 48-57,  New Titans 116-117, and R.E.B.E.L.S. 1 from Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal, comics creators who reinvented Green Lantern for a new generation! Writers: Ron Marz, Marv Wolfman, Tom Peyer, Frank Pittarese; Pencillers: Darryl Banks, Bill Willingham, Fred Haynes, Steve Carr, Jamal Igle, Derec Aucoin, Arnie Jorgensen, J.B. Jones, William Rosado; Inkers: Romeo Tanghal, Robert Campanella, Dennis Cramer, Craig Hamilton, James Pascoe, Keith Champagne, Rich Rankin; Colorists: Anthony Tollin, Steve Mattsson, Stuart Chaifetz, Chi; Letterers: Albert Deguzman, Gaspar Saladino; Collection cover art by Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal; Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster by special arrangement with the Jerry Siegel family.

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Movie Review: Ready Player One

Yesterday, I went and saw Ready Player One with some friends on the recommendation of my brother. You see, my brother has been letting me know repeatedly that this is a movie I would very much appreciate and I definitely did.

“In the year 2045, people can escape their harsh reality in the OASIS, an immersive virtual world where you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone-the only limits are your own imagination. OASIS creator James Halliday left his immense fortune and control of the Oasis to the winner of a contest designed to find a worthy heir. When unlikely hero Wade Watts conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends-known as the High Five-are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.”

Based on the novel with the same name by Ernest Cline, this book is an 80s treasure trove of pop culture references. Every song on the soundtrack was absolutely familiar, as were most of the vehicles used in the first challenge, and so many of the avatars and scenery. I laughed through most of the movie, sometimes at parts other people weren’t laughing at.

I’m not sure how old Wade is supposed to be in the movie, maybe close to 17-20 or so? I mean, the movie told us when he was born and the current year in the movie, but that would require me to do mental math during a beautifully done video game movie and that’s just not happening. Wade/Parzival is very young and naïve, for all that he’s the main character in the movie. He also falls in love with the first pretty girl who gives him the time of day, which I think is a fairly accurate depiction of video gaming men who interact with video gaming women and why so many women choose male avatars in order to avoid the (often annoying) advances or ridicule of their male counterparts. I have not read the book but I hope that Wade and Samantha’s relationship in the book is perhaps slightly less cliché. I also very much enjoyed Aech’s role in the movie, both in the OASIS and in the real world. Aech’s workshop in the OASIS was fantastic and filled with so many easter eggs that I look forward to being able to own this movie when it comes out just so I can press pause all the time and find all the tiny details. I also very much enjoyed Aech’s reaction to Parzival bringing Art3mis/Samantha to the shop and showing Art3mis everything. Aech brings up a good point that you only see online what people want you to see and you are only who you pretend to be online. People’s “real” identity is often concealed and even Parzival gets lectured when he tells Art3mis his real name.

It was enjoyable but I suspect that if I think about it longer, I’ll be more annoyed at some of the things this movie lacked, like 80s pop culture references for women. (Seriously. Where were the Care Bears? Or My Little Pony? She-Ra? Madonna? King’s Quest?) While I do recognize and acknowledge that getting the rights to put in just the references they did probably took a good chunk of their abilities, it might have been nice to see more from a not historically male-dominated part of the 80s.

Overall, this movie was a wonderful hat tip to 80s pop culture. I would probably rate this movie as a high three or even maybe a low four on my rating scale. I might watch it again in the theaters and I will definitely purchase it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray.

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Book Review: the Sheepfarmer’s Daughter by Elizabeth Moon

This month’s Asexual reading book from my 2018 Asexual Reading Goals was the Sheepfarmer’s Daughter (fantasy 314 pages) by Elizabeth Moon.

“Paksenarrion – Paks for short – is somebody special. She knows it, even if nobody else does yet. No way will she follow her father’s orders to marry the pig farmer down the road. She’s off to join the army, even if it means she can never see her family again. And so her adventure begins … the adventure that transforms her into a hero remembered in songs, chosen by the gods to restore a lost rule to his throne. Here is her tale as she lived it.”

As an interesting point, this book has been recommended to me multiple times throughout the years and I only just now got around to reading it. Now that I’ve finished the first book in this trilogy, I can see precisely why this book was recommended repeatedly to me. The main character is unequivocably Asexual and explicitly states that she has never felt inclined to bed anyone, though she does love those around her very deeply. She is so strongly opposed to marrying the pig farmer down the road that she steals a sword and runs away from home. But as soon as she’s a foot off of her family land, she plants the sword in the soil because she doesn’t want to be accused of stealing and the sword is something they might need.

Paksenarrion spends the entire book not actually believing that she’s anyone special. She’s just a soldier who needs to learn to be faster with her sword and shield; who does her camp chores like anyone else. She wants to serve an honorable cause and is willing to pull her fair share and always work to do better. Here is a character who is genuinely worth caring about, as she just wants to do the right thing but she’s also willing to work for it. Honestly, I really liked Paks a lot and I found a lot relatable with this character. She just accepted that she didn’t ever want to bed anyone and found an occupation where she could be who she wanted to be without the pressure of trying to fit into a mold not meant for her.

The Sheepfarmer’s Daughter is very casual about the horrors and reality of war. Mind-numbing tedium partnered with life-threatening situations. Unexpected and expected losses from the violence of war. All of the unpleasant parts of war, including the torture, the stink, and the lack of life-saving medicine. War is not a glorious time with rousing speeches – it’s a time of hunger and misery, feeling every stone in your boot and every foot of every mile. You don’t magically get a beautiful horse to ride around on. Instead, you have to spend months drilling and marching everywhere to learn discipline and how to fight as a team.

This book also had some really great things that I understand a lot better now, like this passage on page 113: “You see people as good or bad, not in between; as fighters or not, and not in between. And since you’re basically a good person, you see most people as good – but most people, Paks, are in between – both as fighters, and as good or bad. And they’re different. If you don’t learn to see them straight – just as you’d look at a sword, knowing all swords aren’t alike – you’ll depend on them for what they don’t have.” One of her fellow soldiers is talking to Paks about how she doesn’t understand that people aren’t always like her, nor can they be judged solely based on the good qualities Paks sees, like whether or not someone is a good fighter. It took me a long time to learn that the world isn’t black and white at all; that most people and most things in life are somewhere on a varied scale of color. Very little in our world is truly good or evil, though those things do exist. Most of everything is just people trying to do the best they can, however they see fit. This is/was a very important lesson but for all that people have recommended this book to me for years, I don’t think I was ready to read it until now.

You can still have the best of intentions and try everything you know to make things better and have everything turn out wrong. You can care about everyone and give of yourself without question and end up the villain of the story. You can learn and grow and want another chance to be happy with someone you love and they could never speak to you again. Nothing is ever as black and white as we’d all like to believe, and that makes the world a lot harder sometimes.

There was a section on page 255 where Paks is talking to the Paladin and the Marshal about how a higher power might have had a hand in some of her actions and survivals and her ideas about higher powers and their divine influence really struck a chord with me. I would think that the higher powers who are out there would want us to do everything we can first, and only ask for minor amounts of aid when absolutely necessary. At the same time, though, sometimes horrible things happen for reasons that involve a sacrifice for a better outcome. I think a lot of people who profess their religious views very strongly these days often don’t see the balance in things. Someone gets into a car accident, for instance, and blames the other driver completely without even listening to what happened. The truth of the accident is likely a combination of factors. Perhaps the driver was speeding and the other vehicle was distracted by a bird in the distance and so the vehicles collided. Only rarely does something have an obvious and definitive problem and solution. So Paks’ ideas on what religious personnel and their followers should do really struck a chord with me because of how little responsibility people take for helping each other and themselves these days. It’s a lot like the story of the man drowning in the flood who asked the higher powers to save him but then didn’t get in the boat when someone rowed by and asked if they needed help because they were positive that divine intervention would be what really saved them when the higher powers really just wanted to enable people to save other people.

Overall, I’m glad I finally read this book and happy the I own the entire trilogy. I’d probably rate this as a solid three on my rating scale and I’m likely to reread it in the future.

Moon, Elizabeth. Omnibus edition: The Deed of Paksenarrion. Baen Books. February, 1992. (combines Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold).

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Graphic Novel Review: X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 4

I finished reading of X-Men’s Age of Apocalypse saga with X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 4 (Graphic Novel 352 pages) well over a week ago but my time slipped away from me and I am only just now getting to the review.

This is the official back of book 4: “Learn who lives and who dies in either reality as the apocalyptic arc ends in treachery and tragedy! While certain heroic humans prove their mettle without armor or magic hammers, it’s a race to see who the X-Men will destroy first: Apocalypse or themselves! But even with the crisis concluded, new allies and enemies emerge, guaranteeing that reality will still never be the same! Featuring the dawn of Gene Nation and a turning point for the Legacy Virus!”

This book represents the final chapter for each of the Age of Apocalypse X-Men teams and many of them do not go well or as expected. I think this series also did an interesting job of showing the rest of the Marvel Comics Universe, with cameos by characters such as Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Gwen Stacey, Matt Murdock, Donald Blake, Victor Von Doom, Clint Barton, Ben Grimm, Suzie Storm, and others. Some characters are heroes even without powers, special suits, government backing, and teams and I found this entire series to have a lot of hope in small actions of heroism than I often see in larger super hero franchises these days. For instance, all the “minor” players in this series, those who have no true power and very poor odds against Apocalypse and his followers, sacrifice everything to give the surviving people just a chance.

This was originally from Marvel’s Weapon X 4, but can more recently be found X-Men: the Complete Age of Apocalypse Epic Book 4. Inside credits are listed as: Larry Hama – Script; Adam Kubert – Pencils; Dan Green – Inks; Pat Brosseau – Letters; Joe Rosas – Colors; Digital Chameleon – Seps; Bob Harras – Editor

They live in a hopeless world and yet they continue to fight and give everything they have to those weaker or less privileged than them, which made me start to think that maybe if we all focused more on the small heroisms in our own lives and world, how much of a difference would that have in making things in our world better? Why do the stakes always have to be so high and so clear in order for us to recognize heroes? I’m not talking about the fanatic worship of people in certain occupations in our modern society, but rather, the small acts of everyday kindness and heroism that are often overlooked by the modern media in favor of spending more media on the acts of violence and discontent. How much would our own world be transformed if people believed in hope again? If we all started doing small things to combat the growing strife amongst us?

All of those who chose heroic acts in the Age of Apocalypse did so knowing that what they did may or may not even make a dent in Apocalypse’s world of death, but they had to try anyway. The humans fighting Mikhail knew that they were all likely to die or be turned into genetic fodder but they still implemented a massive Trojan Horse plan to save those they could. They gave up everything just for a chance to make things better, for the humans to survive just a little longer.

Overall, I’d rate this graphic novel as a low three on my rating scale. It’s not my favorite of this series and a lot of characters take actions that I believe are out of character for them. At the same time, though, you see characters acknowledge their own privilege and work to rescue those without. The series ends with the mission completed, but the cost was very high. I’m glad I own this graphic novel and will likely read it again when I next reread this series.

This collection compiled in chronological order from Generation Next 4, X-Calibre 4, X-Man 4 and 53-54, Factor X 4, Gambit and the X-Ternals 4, Amazing X-Men 4, Weapon X 4, X-Universe 2, X-Men: Omega, Blink 4, and X-Men Prime.

The original comic books were published in 1995, 1999, 2001, 2006, and 2010, from Generation Next 4, X-Calibre 4, X-Man 4 and 53-54, Factor X 4, Gambit and the X-Ternals 4, Amazing X-Men 4, Weapon X 4, X-Universe 2, X-Men: Omega, Blink 4, and X-Men Prime. Writers: Fabian Nicieza, Mark Waid, John Francis Moore, Scott Lobdell, Judd Winick, Jeph Loeb, Terry Kavanagh, Larry Hama, Chris Bachalo, Warren Ellis. Pencilers: Chris Bachalo, Bryan Hitch, Jeff Matsuda,Gary Frank, Mike McKone, Ben Herrera, Paul Pelletier, Salvador Larroca, Steve Epting, Terry Dodson, Roger Cruz, Trevor McCarthy, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Luke Ross, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce. Inkers: Mark Buckingham, Al Milgrom, Cam Smith, Robin Riggs, Tim Townsend, Matt Ryan, Karl Kesel, Rod Ramos, Rick Ketchum, Tyson McAdo, Dan Green, P. Craig Russel, Mark Farmer, Scott Hanna, Mark McKenna, Tom Palmer, Hector Collazo, Tom Wegrzyn, Phillip Moy, Bud Larsoa, Harry Candelarioe. Colors: Marie Javins, Glynis Oliver, Kevin Tinsley, Mark Bernardo, Joe Rosas, Steve Buccellato, Kevin Somers, Mike Thomas, & Liquid! Color. Separations: Steve Buccellato & Electric Crayon, Digital Chameleon. Letters: Chris Eliopolous, Pat Brosseau, Richard Starkings & Comicraft. Cover Art: John Romita Jr. Cover Colors: Tom Smith. Editors: Bob Harras, Kelly Corvese, Pete Franco, Mark Powers, Suzanne Gaffney, Jason Liebig, Lisa Patrick.

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