“Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow” by Warren Ellis

Trees, Vol. 1: In Shadow (Trees, #1)(Author: Warren Ellis) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Yes, please.

I really, really enjoyed this volume. It was what Arrival would be if it was a comic book, except with a lot more characters.

After my streak of bad comic books, I didn’t even expect much from Trees. I was definitely pleasantly surprised.

Trees tells the story of the world 10 years after people discovered that aliens exist. The “trees”  appear all over the world. Wherever there is a tree, life is much darker and harder, and bad people choose the shadow of the trees.

There are several stories which follow different locations where there is a tree (Rio, Cefalu, New York, Shu (China), Mogadishu, etc.). Some of the people there are barely surviving, while some thrive on the darkness.

trees001

It might seem like the entire volume has too many plots and characters, but I, personally, thought that it was a brilliant way to set up the story. Every tree location has a completely different event unfolding and all of them will be important for the future fight. And if so many cities seem unnecessary to some readers, I should remind that every time they present only one city in a similar futuristic plot, people always go “But what about the rest of the world?” Because of this, I fully support the fact that we have all kinds of sub-plots, and nothing seemed out of place to me. On the contrary, every story seemed just right for what is to come in the series.

I also really liked the art of Trees. It was simple but tasteful and pretty. There were scenes including death and sex, but they were not brutal and disgusting, and instead, they seemed mild and satisfying. This, for me, shows that the creators were sure enough of the quality of the book that they didn’t need to shock the readers with unnecessary vulgarity.

I am really looking forward to the next volumes of Trees!

arctic-page

 

“Yaban” by Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu

Yaban(Author: Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoglu) + (Year: 1932) + (Goodreads)

(Around the world: Turkey)


Review:

Initially I was not sure about this book. Having read Kiralik Konak, I couldn’t fully grasp where the author was going and why he had a sudden change of heart as to his world views. However, I quickly realized that at the beginning of the book he heavily used irony to introduce the strange world of Anatolia to the reader.

Similarly to what I said in my review about The Bridge on the Drina, I think that a person who has never had any kind of contact with Anatolia, and with Turkey outside of Istanbul in general, would have a problem completely understanding Yaban (translated as The Strange on Wikipedia; whereas yabancı is a foreigner, an alien [though not one from outer space]).

This book represents a world that has hardly changed from the time it was written, or, as a matter of fact, the time it is set in, or any time before that. Anatolia is not anything that one could just imagine. The people living there are, and seem to have been for a really long time, suspended in a certain timelessness. Their world might change as the outside world does, but their mindset doesn’t necessarily need to follow.

The main character in Yaban is a veteran from the war, the son of a rich family from Istanbul, who loses his arm during WWI and, defeated, decides to “look for himself” in a quiet village in Anatolia, supposedly somewhere close to Sakarya (which is still far away from inner or Eastern Anatolia, which is yet another, completely different world). What this man is not prepared for is that even though he is from the same country, even though he speaks almost the same language, albeit much more refined, even though he has lost his arm to protect these people, they will never see him as one of them. He is always rejected as a crippled outsider, unwanted and unwelcome. The most that he ever achieves is to be tolerated, but never sought after.

The world has changed a lot since the times of the book – the Turkish Liberation War (1919-1922), but I wouldn’t say that Anatolia has done so, too. I had the opportunity to live in Ankara, the second biggest metropolis in Turkey, and to travel around the country, and I can understand the character of this book very well. While in university life I could almost fit in, especially considering that I speak the language, whenever me and my friends would go on a trip to any other city in Anatolia, we would stick out like a sore thumb. On one occasion we were walking on a seemingly empty market street in a rather big town, only to have every single person from every single store come out to gawk at us in a matter of seconds.

Therefore, this special mindset can be attributed to the culture of this mainland part of Turkey. The closed societies, everyone knowing everybody else, the people sticking together in times of need, but always mistrusting outsiders. This is something that, I believe, was a common phenomenon all over the world before globalization and multiculturalism, but in many parts of the world, and especially Europe, where by many standards Turkey is, it has changed a lot since. More so, even if strangers and foreigners are noticeable in small towns all over Europe, they are still more welcome.

I think that this lack of change in Anatolia can, therefore, be attributed to the continuing conflict between European culture and Islamic tradition. And when I say Islamic tradition, I especially need to underline the word tradition. Because religions of all kinds are tightly linked to following a set of rules which resist time and change and, in some cases, get much stronger with time and under the pressure of outside forces to evolve.

What bothered me in this story is also closely linked to the traditionalism of religion. Yaban is very actual today. I am afraid to say that in the last century it has never been more close to the reality of the current situation than today. The book is set right in the middle of Ataturk’s war for the liberalization of Turkey. Ataturk’s ideas were very controversial at the time. Today he is widely beloved, but that was not necessarily so during his rise to power. He was also considered an outsider and even an oppressor by some. And the main reason for that was that Ataturk shared many of the European values, including the idea that religion should not play a central role in society. Which means that after he became head of the newly born Turkish Republic, he lowered the importance of religion and went ahead to educate the people in a new set of cultural values.

In recent years religion has been re-gaining its positions, which means that more and more people become torn between Westernization and dedication to Islam. And this time around the government, in opposition to Ataturk’s principles, is promoting the role of religion, therefore taking a step back from what was achieved during the Liberation War. And never has the following quote from the book been more relevant to society, and not in a good way:

– I know, you are one of them. 
– Who are “them”?
– The ones who support Kemal Pasha [Ataturk].
– How can a man be a Turk and not support Kemal Pasha?
– My friend, we are not Turks.
– What are you, then?
– We are Muslim, alhamdulillah, praise be to God.

(translated by me) 

 

 

“The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action” by Kieron Gillen

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action(Author: Kieron Gillen) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Yes! Thank the Pantheon, the art disaster that was the last volume has been put to an end. I couldn’t be happier to have the beautiful art back. Having read as many comic books as I have so far, I think that Jamie McKelvie’s art is up there at the top for me.

In every single frame the art is so astoundingly beautiful that I am even willing to forgive some of the flaws in the plot.

This volume convinced me that The Wicked + The Divine is following a simple story arc, using simple art (in the sense that there aren’t millions upon millions of layers, textures and so on), and following a pace that is neither too slow, nor too fast. While I think that this is a very safe recipe, it also makes it easier to follow through with the plots and to not create a mess of story lines that go no where. At the same time, the story does draw the reader in and keep their interest.

There are two things that I support, and at the same time, would not mind if they changed a bit:

  1. The pace: As I said, thanks to the medium pace, the story lines get resolved. However, 4 volumes in, we haven’t moved that much forward in terms of the plot. The character development is more vigorous, but the general aim of the book is somewhere in the distant future, because only at the end of this volume, do we see the end of the first act. Ananke‘s words at the end of Rising Action are ominous and predict that there is going to be a completely different big arc in the book, and one that will have a much bigger adversary.
  2. The character interactions: The characters have a set of relationships with each other worthy of a soap opera, but it’s actually really hard to find the motivation for their actions. Why these two hate each other and those two don’t is usually determined by the alliances and enmity which serve the author. Also, taking into consideration that they are in a constant war, they don’t actually have that much time to interact.

Thank being said, I love Laura’s team. But not Laura herself. He-he.

tumblr_static_tumblr_static_2hd3n4k8r8w044800cow00w00_640

“Shutter, Vol. 1: Wanderlost” by Joe Keatinge

Shutter, Vol. 1: Wanderlost(Author: Joe Keatinge) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


Review:

*** 3.5 stars ***

I previously reviewed the first issue of Shutter, and I stand by my prediction that this book has a lot of potential.

Shutter is a nostalgic journey back into the stories of our childhoods: Indiana Jones, The Mummy – adventurers, unknown lands, suave villains. With one exception. Shutter is not limited to our small planet.

The main character of the book, Kate, is a retired explorer who is trying to lead a normal life, but even if she’s not looking for trouble, trouble sure finds her.

That is not to say that Shutter is a book for kids. It’s more like all of the adventures you dreamed of having when you were a child, but seen through the mind of an adult. Including the cursing.

I found everything about Shutter very charming: the characters, the setting, the story, and even the space-time continuum. As I mentioned in my previous review, the first issue gives little away about the world Shutter is set in. From the rest of the volume it becomes clear that this is our planet, and nation states such as Brazil and the UK still exist. Also, it seems that the story is not set in the future, so it seems to be set in an alternate reality instead. One that is full of endearing absurdity. Such as Kate’s best friend, her clock.

shutter-wanderlost

However, don’t be mistaken that the story of this book is one that’s easy to understand. Having finished the first volume, I can tell you that in no moment is it explained why it’s called Shutter. Or anything much beyond the prelude. The book leaves a lot to be answered in the future. Where I usually draw the line here for books that take too much time to get to the point, I found myself interested enough to go on. There are many things that I would still like to learn, and I am willing to sacrifice some patience for that.

And also for the fact that the art of Shutter is beautiful! The art style is very specific and there’s something quirky about it that I can’t exactly put my finger on, but I do thing that it’s very pleasing and adds to the story.

shutter1_keatingedelduca_pnl

“Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” by Art Spiegelman

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (Maus, #1)(Author: Art Spiegelman) + (Year: 1986) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I first heard about this book in my History of Political Film class last year, after we watched the actual videos of the Nazi propaganda about Jews being vermin. Since then I have wanted to read the graphic novel and see the approach of the artist toward the issue.

It would be hard to say that Maus is not an influential book. It presents the viewpoint of a survivor from the Holocaust in nothing less than original medium. While I was reading Maus, I realized that I have watched many movies about the hardships of the Jews during the Holocaust, but that I haven’t actually read any books about it. I was really impressed by the simple but terrifying narrative of this book.

What is more, the characters in Maus are very realistic. The author doesn’t try to sugarcoat their personalities in order to manipulate the emotions of the readers. Neither Art, nor his father, or any of the other characters that come and go, are perfect. In fact, they are all hard to like, in one way or another. That doesn’t diminish the tragedy that they suffered, it just makes them as human as the rest of us, and shows that no one has the privilege of being safe under the threat of tyranny.

That being said, I will return back to the two main characters, Art and Vladek. To Vladek I had more sympathy, because in the present he is a old man and a lot of his bad traits could have come with age and suffering. But Art is intolerable. He is mean, rude, and he really doesn’t seem to care about what his parents went through. He is just greedy, overly eager to take this story from his father and profit from it. During every scene where he was present, I had a strong urge to cringe by how bad of a person and of a son he is.

From a moral point of view, everything about this book if bothersome. The entire history of the Holocaust is atrocious. That much should be universally clear.

From artistic point of view, there was one thing that bothered me about Maus, and that is the depiction of Poles. As far as the literal depiction of them as pigs (which are considered unclean [non-kosher] in Jewish culture), I understand that the author used the way Nazis referred to Poles as “swine”. However, even if we dismiss that, because the author used the same metaphor in depicting Jews as mice, the author does his best to present Poles as traitors and people who only helped the Jews to gain from it. Even if some of them did so, let’s not forget that there were also Jewish law enforcers whose job was to give other Jews to the Nazis. A large number of Poles aided the hiding and protection of Jews, and were detained, sent to labour camps, or executed for it. As well as the fact that if up to 6 million Jews died in concentration camps, so did about 2 million Poles (a large number of the Polish people I know have had relatives in concentration camps, too). I don’t want to be misunderstood. I do not, in any way, want to make the horror that happened to the Jews seem any smaller. However, I do not think that the artistic choice of representation of the nationality/ethnic group that suffered the most after Jews is fair in Maus.