Pictures in Books

Well, I finally made it to a comic shop yesterday, and was able to pick up Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #16-17 and Go Go Power Rangers #1.  Given my plans, I figured comics would be a great choice to read over breakfast, and started by rereading Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers #14-15.  You know, as a refresher for what was going on most recently.  I remembered the alternate universe, but it helped to figure out exactly what was going on.  And to see that saga come to an end in issue 16.  Oh sure, these are comics and there’s hints that we may see more of that universe in the future, but issue 17 is back to normal, mostly, with the Power Rangers being the do-gooders we all know and love.  A slice of life before the next major story arc begins.

It’s also worth noting that the inside front cover of the series shows the standard diamond pattern from the suits.  This may not sound important, but for the first twelve issues they’re green.  Starting with issue 13 (and also including last year’s annual), those diamonds are red, signifying a shift in focus from Tommy to Jason.  (This year’s annual had yellow diamonds, but I’m not sure if the annuals can really hold a lot of significance.)  Issue 17 heavily implies that we are going to do a Jason-centric arc next, which is fine by me.  Tommy may be the classic eternal ranger, but this is a team of six and everyone has their own personality, history, and contributions.

Then there’s Go Go Power Rangers, the first in a new series that explores what it was like for the original five rangers, before Tommy was a factor.  This ties in very nicely to issue 17 of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers where they begin to reference specific chracter traits and histories that haven’t been mentioned or explored previously.  To have two instances of those mentions in issue 17 there and then to see them brought up right away in issue 1 here is fairly satisfying, and I have to wonder if this is a pattern they’ll be repeating over and over again.  So far, I like it.

Together, these comics are well on their way to making up for the vast disappointment of the new movie’s novelization.  It’s hard to say that they do because, well, these are comic books.  They’re short and serialized and if I wanted to get a better sense of overall story I’d have to read everything in one go.  I’ve done it before, but so much that I don’t feel any need to go all the way back to the beginning of MMPR for some time yet.  I will continue collecting and reading both series though.

Switching gears, today was a great day for books.  Today I went to the Newberry Library’s annual book sale.  If you’re not from Chicagoland, or not familiar with said library’s sale…it’s a doozy.  They have six rooms of varying sizes, all the categories you could ever want, books ranging from mere months to more than a century old, and everything in between.  There are hundreds of thousands of books and it is insane how many of them vanish over the five days of the sale, from the members’ preview night on Wednesday through half-price Sunday.  One day maybe I’ll actually take off work to get down on Thursday and see the real insanity.  Maybe.  I usually end up there on Saturday or Sunday, when things are more picked over and there’s not much left under the tables.

(I was there with a friend who said it was his fifth time going to the sale this year and he couldn’t believe there were still sci-fi/fantasy books he didn’t remember seeing.  I pointed out that there was next to nothing left under the tables, meaning that it had all been moved up on top and onto the shelves.  He agreed that on Thursday there had been boxes he couldn’t even see into under the tables.)

We managed to arrive right around ten, as the sale opened for the day, and I made a beeline straight for my preferred section of sci-fi/fantasy.  The layout’s the same every year, which helps.  And I was stunned by how much was left.  Oh sure, it was opening on Saturday, but it was still Saturday and I know for a fact that people not only use those boxes to carry out their loot, they pile them in carts.  People buy a lot of books at this sale.  So for there to be a fairly large selection left, comparable to some (non-specialty) used bookstores, was very exciting.  After all, the more books available, the more likely I’ll be able to find something.

And I did find things.  Nothing I had been specifically looking for, but things.  I also poked my head into the children’s section, but they didn’t have anything I really wanted.  Then I discovered that the Judaica had an entire table and several boxes beneath, and occupied myself for a good amount of time there.  Finally, I got lucky with some of the CDs.  It was a good Newberry sale for me; I got more than I expected.

However, I was nowhere ready to go home yet.  My friend lives reasonably close to Andersonville, and I happened to know that the neighborhood is having a sidewalk sale this weekend.  I thought to stop by and look at $5 shirts.  Little did I know that the Women and Children First bookstore was having a sidewalk sale too…a used book sale.  There, I struck gold for children’s books.  It looked to me as if someone had donated an entire set of Jewish picture books.  Some I’d heard of (by specific title or series), some I’d read, and some were entirely new to me.  I picked what I thought were three of the best, and then a parody book for shits and giggles.

After lunch, my friend wanted to head over to The Brown Elephant, a massive and classic secondhand store with a bit of everything.  I’ll mention it again when I reread a certain book…but for today, we mostly looked at their books and CDs as well.  I added two more books and one more CD to my haul there.  Then he wanted to show me a local comic shop, Alleycat Comics.  You literally walk down this little alley to get to the store, which is tucked away in a private courtyard, complete with metal chairs and tables.  It was a nice shop and I was able to grab the Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels I’d forgotten to look for in previous months.  For some reason, whenever I find the time to go comic shopping, that same weekend a friend drags me into another comic shop.  Why?

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Regardless, here’s a picture of my haul for the day.  (And I do mean haul, my shoulders are relatively unhappy with me after toting that pile around for hours.)  Some of these books I’m super excited to own, others I’m mildly intrigued by, and others are just, well, just interesting enough to spend money on.  Though please note that the biggest chunk of money spent here was on A: TLA.  The Newberry charged me $14, Women & Children First was $4, and The Brown Elephant was $2.50.  Oh, and for the curious, the CD without a case is by Enya.  I have no idea what album or anything, but I’m happy to pick it up on strength of Enya.

With this, my Pile now takes up an entire shelf on my old Container Store bookshelf, and I don’t need a bookend to keep things from falling over.  Rather, the books barely fit on that one shelf, even with the picture books taken out.  And since they wouldn’t fit, and the theme of today is already “short and easy reads,” what else should I read over dinner than those four new picture books?

I started with The First Gift, written by A.S. Gadot and illustrated by Marie Lafrance.  It’s a simple, yet surprisingly insightful story about how the first gift any person receives in this life is their name.  It was cute, sometimes funny, and nicely illustrated.  Not something I’ll revisit until there is a small child to read to (with?), but worth keeping.

Next was The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah written by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Paul Meisel.  This one is…somewhat brilliant.  And for best effect must be read aloud by someone who can do a great New York Yid accent.  I kid you not.  This is the story of the Little Red Hen, whom everyone wants to mooch off of in the end, but done with a Jewish twist.  She’s your Jewish mother who asks you to do your chores, and kvetches when you brush her off.  It’s wonderful, and I’m going to con my dad into reading it aloud next year.

Continuing that holiday theme, I also read A Different Kind of Passover by Linda Leopold-Strauss and illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau.  This one’s done in a more painterly style, evoking the Impressionists.  Content-wise, it’s about what makes Passover important to the main character.  This strikes a chord in me because what she likes is all the things that stay the same, so for things to be different because Grandpa was in the hospital makes everything scary and strange.  Admittedly, A Different Kind of Passover is not nearly as disconcerting for me personally as watching A Serious Man.  That movie is like watching the photo albums in my grandparents’ apartment come to life.  Seriously disturbing.

The last picture book is Where the mild Things Are: a very meek parody by Maruice Send-Up and illustrated by Bonnie Leick.  This one is adorable and hilarious.  Even better, you can still read it to kids who won’t understand a third of what’s going on and they’ll still enjoy it.  This is the story of Mog who is the most boring monster I’ve ever heard of.  You can see the titles of so many of his boring books and they range from straightforward things like Calculus, Chemistry, and HTML Code to History of Rocks, 1001 Facts About Dirt, and Zip Codes of Guatemala.  (No, I am not making this up.)  So he goes off on an amazingly boring adventure across the US to visit all sorts of boring places like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine and Normal, Illinois.  (I am super amused that Normal is in there.  It may be the only real city listed.)  Then he arrives in Dullsville and at this point every other adult reading the book really starts laughing.  Point being, this is as amusing and satisfying as The Night Bookmobile wasn’t.

And since this is clearly a day of visually-focused books that are shorter than most novels, I decided to finish up by rereading Avatar: The Last Airbender North and South Part One and following it up with parts two and three.  What the story here reminds me of most is The Last Samurai, where Mr. Graham says that the past and the future are “at war for the very soul of Japan.”  The Southern Water Tribe is the least…European style civilation in the world.  The Fire Nation has been pushing an Industrial revolution, and the Earth Kingdom is developing machines and metalbending to do the same.  Aang is the last of the Air Nomads, so they don’t matter, and then you have the Water Tribe.  The Northern Water Tribe is, as we saw in the animated series, much more European than its Southern sister.  And now that the war is over, the Southern Water Tribe has a chance to rebuild.

The question is how.  Many people would like to see the Southern Water Tribe become more like its Northern counterpart, while others wish to stick to the lifestyle they’ve always known.  It’s clear that the best way would be some sort of compromise between the two, but people being people, no final decision can be made.  Not just in these three books, but probably not in the future either.  It’s just hard to be torn between two very different lifestyles.  In all likelihood, it’ll be the children who end up determining the course by growing up and seeing no contradiction between the two influences that are both factors in their lives.

There’s not really a resolution in that sense, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  These graphic novels exist to tell a bit of the story that comes after Aang’s great victory over the Firelord and the end of the war.  We get to see the foundations being laid for the world Korra will be born into.  I saw something about similar follow-up books coming out following The Legend of Korra, though I’m of two minds about them.  Essentially, I adore Avatar: The Last Airbender unequivocally.  But I have some issues with Korra.  More because of how they got dicked around by the network so that they couldn’t tell a complete and well-paced story the way the first series did than anything else…but disjointed storytelling is still disjointed storytelling and it makes it harder for me to enjoy.

I suppose I should wrap this up now, since I don’t see myself adding anything more to the pile of comics and other books I’ve read today.  At least I have plenty of new reading material to choose from for tomorrow!

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