Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Taking Chances

Sometimes I feel like I get a little too set in my reading habits. So I like to take a chance on books that at least on the surface level I don't feel a connection to. Recently the two I took a chance on were

Conan Volume 1: The Frost Giant's Daughter And Other Stories
by Kurt Busiek, Cary Nord (Illustrator), Thomas Yeates (Illustrator), Dave Stewart (Illustrator)
Dark Horse, $15.95, 192 pages (March, 2005)

I've never been much of a fan of sword & sorcery books, though I do recall watching one of the Conan movies and reading one or two novels as a kid. Yet that was more in hopes of seeing some naked chicks than anything else.

Yet this new series has received a lot of praise, and the packaging of the book was really lovely, so I decided to take a chance.

Sadly I'm still not a fan of sword and sorcery books, and found large parts of this story line fairly repugnant. Conan in some respects has a certain amount of honor when it comes to fellow warriors, and I could admire his sense of adventure in wanting to see new places and meet new people.

Yet his treatment of women is down right scary, be it dominating a slave girl who risked much to free him from a drug induced stupor. To his wild pursuit of a female goddess in order to rape her for first taunting him on a battlefield.

I suppose that is done to add depth to the character, showing he is neither hero of villain. Yet that's just a step too far for me to really root for him as I feel I should.

The book and story itself are quite well done though. These mystical worlds are both bigger than life, yet still recognizable and relatable to the reader. Busiek provides unique voices for the various races and characters, and the blood, gore and women in little to no clothing are brought to full life by Nord.

I'm just not the target audience for the book, because it's a genre that just isn't ever going to interest me if this book is any indication.

Inhumans Vol. 1: Culture Shock
by Sean McKeever and Matthew Clark
Marvel, $7.99, 144 pages (April 27, 2005)

I have never liked or cared for The Inhumans characters at all before. Beyond the rather goofy costumes and powers. There's just something inherently creepy about a race of beings who gas their kids with stuff that most likely could kill them or horribly deform them.

So imagine my surprise when I take a chance on this book and find it far different from my expectations.

The creepy stuff with the gas is still there, but it is played with for great effect in how it can take lives in directions that the participants didn't expect. Then how that can change the way they must live and how they interact with those around them.

A big help is that the "goofy stuff" of the Inhumans royal family is downplayed to the point where they are almost out of the book entirely. With the series following a group of new Inhuman characters, who are young and still adjusting to their roles in the Inhumans society as adults.

So when they are ordered by their king to take part in an exchange program, that requires them to live and attend college on Earth. Their lives are all thrown into turmoil as they must not only continue to learn about themselves, but also learn about an entirely new society.

Seeing how both the Earthlings and Inhumans interact with each other was fascinating study of culture clash. From the naive Alaris who gets taken advantage of by those who see an opportunity in his optimistic ignorance. To the brash Nahrees who despite an abrasive personality constantly finds herself interacting with others, and becoming hurt when things don't go well.

I like that neither culture is shown as being inherently better or worse than the other. Each has its positives and negatives that are highlighted.

It showcasea the alienness that the different cultures have when they come together, yet still manages to have the grain of connection that crosses those differences. A common thread, that no matter how different things may seem we can all be very much a like as well.

I got to the end of this book and wanted to see more about the characters, and to see whether the two races could come together or not. Hopefully Marvel finishes the story soon.


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