Thursday, May 1, 2008

Letter from the Editor, May 2008

The summer travel season is upon us, and if you're anything like me, gas prices could well keep you at home. The good news is, this month you can travel along with the Estella's Revenge writers through myriad topics bold and bookish. Whether you're out to create your own travel journal or just want to relax with a book to sweep you away, we hope you'll find something here that's to your liking.

We're currently accepting submission for our June issue--"Summer!"--so if you have any writing you'd like to share or book reviews to pass along, drop us an e-mail at estellabooks(at)gmail(dot)com. All submissions are due by the 25th of May.


Table of Contents

Door Prize Book Giveaway

Feature Articles



Door Prize Book Giveaway

The winner of the April Door Prize, a $15 Gift Certificate to Powell's is...

M. Klein of College Station, Texas!

We're very pleased to send Malinda her prize, and this month's giveaway marks the largest turn out we've had for a Door Prize drawing. Thanks to everyone who entered, and watch for another opportunity to win. You never know when we might offer another great prize from Powell's.

Our May giveaway is a collection of short stories by Elizabeth Crane titled, You Must Be This Happy to Enter.

From the publisher:

Denial, God, dystopia, academic, and reality TV collide in acclaimed author Crane's third story collection--the latest release from Punk Planet Books.

"Crane has a distinctive and eccentric voice that is consistent and riveting."--New York Times Book Review

"Crane is funny, even when her subject is pain . . . There's an energy and immediacy to [her] stories that make them feel as if they could have been delivered in one beautiful, raw rant over a bottle of wine. A night reading them is well spent."--Entertainment Weekly

**To enter the drawing, drop us an e-mail at estellabooks(at)gmail(dot)com. Please include your name, address, and blog address if you have one.

A Sense of Place

By Stuart Sharp

Every story happens somewhere.

It’s something that authors occasionally forget, but readers rarely do. Great characters, great plotlines and excellent pacing all help to produce books worth reading, but a sense of place is just as essential. Where would Wuthering Heights have been without its moorland, or The Lord of the Rings without Middle Earth for its Hobbits to traverse? In these, as with countless other novels, a strong sense of the world in which the novel occurs is absolutely vital.

Detail helps. Tanya Huff’s horror/modern fantasy novels seem different as much because of her ability to convey the detail of Toronto and Vancouver as anything else. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods reads as much like the oddest travelogue ever written as it does a normal novel.

Detail, however, isn’t the same thing as accuracy. Nowhere does this show as much as in fantasy writing. No one is going to claim that Middle Earth, or Discworld, or the lands around Lankhmar are real. It is, therefore, pretty difficult to argue that they’re being portrayed accurately. How would you check? On the other hand, Tolkein, Prachett and Fritz Leiber all portray their imaginary places so vividly that it’s hard to consider you might not be able to find your way around. This applies to real world authors almost as much. According to Bill Bryson’s excellent biography of Shakespeare, the Bard appears to have had serious difficulties when it came to geography. In particular, the geography of Italy seems to have given him trouble, causing him for example to have sailors come from land locked towns. At the same time, I think it’s fair to say that he also managed some amazing evocations of place with just a few words from his characters.

There are, in contrast, works of genuine travel-based writing that fall flat despite accurately detailing the places the author passes through. I’m thinking particularly of the sub-genre of the outlandish quest. Some of them manage to tell us little beyond the bare facts in their hurry to be funny. The better ones, like Robert Twigger’s Angry White Pyjamas or Dave Gorman’s Googlewack Adventure, pass on something that seems both less tangible and more important. They convey a sense of each place’s unique feel.

It’s hard to deny that one place will usually feel different from another. If you need proof, think about your hometown for a moment and then about somewhere that you’ve visited. The memories will probably have a very different tone, and not just because you’re less familiar with one of them. Different towns, villages and cities will have different rhythms, different skylines, different patterns of speech, different landmarks and different people. They will also have particular quirks that stick in the mind more than anything. My personal favourite is the tendency of the city of York to creep up on people, so that they end up in the middle of it before they quite expect it.

Conveying this difference in feel is the real test of how well a particular book puts across a sense of place. To return to Neil Gaiman for a moment, his novel Neverwhere spends a lot of time moving through a London that is unreal and fantastic, yet he always manages to maintain something of the feel of that city even in his strangest deviations from it. By the same token Douglas Adams, in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, evokes a feel for Cambridge that chimes perfectly with the place, even though the details are changed.

Of course, this can work the other way around as well. Choosing to set a book in one place rather than another changes the feel of the work dramatically. Jasper Fforde’s decision to work with fictionalised versions of Reading and Swindon, for example, provides a dramatically different feel than London might have. Even though he plays around with the world considerably in the various Thursday Next novels, and is working with a deliberately fictional version of Reading in The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear, the choice instantly provides a less built up, less hectic feel in the background.

In some cases, a place gets so bound up with a particular novel or series that it’s hard to imagine it set anywhere else. The obvious example would be something like James Joyce’s Dubliners. Would Geordies have worked? Could anyone really imagine it set in, for example, Barnsley? That’s just as true when you move a little way down the literary scale. Try to imagine Inspector Morse’s cases set outside of Oxfordshire and the mind draws a blank. Try to imagine P.G. Woodhouse moving Jeeves and Wooster outside of a series of country houses and it works, because he did it on occasion, but take the same characters and throw them into the middle of a major industrial city and it’s a very different story. Again, the feel of the thing is wrong.

Nowhere is this emphasis on the feel of a place so important as in poetry. There just isn’t room for more. There isn’t space to note every detail, or to explore every street. Often, a few details have to stand for the whole place, when the poet bothers with a place at all. That, of course, is one of the differences between prose and poetry. While a story might have to look out of the window and give the reader a setting, a poem can be so focused on something else that the reader never thinks to ask.

When they do look, though, the results can be wonderful. Alan Ross’ collection Death Valley is one of the best examples of this, taking the reader along with him on a tour of the USA in a series of poems that evoke the places he passes through in sharp, biting images. Julia Copus, in her collection In Defence of Adultery, approaches landscapes in a way that is broader and yet somehow also very personal, not connecting images with specific places as overtly, but drawing on personal links to them in a hugely effective way.

I suppose the ultimate demonstration of the power of place within both poetry and prose is the way some locations have stuck in readers’ minds so much that they have to visit them. It’s common enough to visit the birthplaces of authors, to tour past Ann Hathaway’s cottage in search of some connection to her husband, or to think for a moment about the authors who have worked in particular coffee houses, or libraries, or galleries. When we also have people visiting Baker Street after reading Arthur Conan Doyles’ books, or searching ‘Bronte Country’ for every landmark the sisters mentioned in their works, you know they’ve created a sense of place that has been impossible to shake off.

Mind you, I suspect that also has something to do with the palatability of the locations concerned. Trekking through beautifully bleak countryside after reading Jane Eyre is one thing, but you won’t catch many people reading Larkin and then rushing to visit Hull.

An Ode to Travel Books

by Melissa

I adore travel books.

By "travel books," I don't mean the travel guides that line the shelves of the bookstore with lists of what to do and where to go (though I have to admit, I do like reading those, too), nor do I mean novels where a certain place is essential to the plot. No, what I mean are the non-fiction books, an author taking a journey somewhere, experiencing a different life for a while, and then writing about his or her experience.
Those are the travel books I love.

I have also called them "place books" because, for me, the most important element of the book needs to be a sense of wonder and excitement and anticipation about the places the author sees and the people the author meets. Without some element of respect and wonder, the book just becomes a catalog of events, a journey not worth taking. But with it, the book transports, taking me places and doing things I would never dream of doing (like giving up normal life for a house in Tuscany, or sailing the world following Captain Cook, or walking the length of the Appalachian Trail), experiencing new, unusual, and sometimes incredible places and people.

I love these books for many reasons. It's because I can be inspired and entertained by these escapades in ways I can't when they are fictional characters. Real people did these real things: it's enough to motivate me to be just a little bit better, work just a little bit outside the mold, and think a bit more outside the box. It's also because they're accessible: most of these writers are journalists, and they write in a way that resonates with me in ways that novelists sometimes don't. And it's partly because it allows me to see the world in a way I couldn't when I travel, even if I could imagine myself going some of these places. I want to visit Antigua, and live there for a month, and get to know the local people, but time and money and lifestyle just don't mesh with that ideal. I admire these people, admire their willingness to get up and go and do.

Perhaps there's a bit of a traveler in all of us, wanting to reach out and experience something beyond our mundane lives. Here is a list of 15 of my favorites, as well as others that sound interesting, to get you started (all descriptions of books I haven't read came -- in part -- from

1. There will never, ever be a travel list without some book of Bill Bryson's. He is, in my mind, the king of travel writers, the epitome of interesting journeys, witty observation, and superb writing. My two personal favorites are Walk in the Woods about his experiences walking the Appalachian Trail and In a Sunburned Country, about his escapades across Australia.

2. Around the World in 80 Days -- not the Jules Verne novel, but the one by Michael Palin. Yes, it's the same guy from Monty Python (and A Fish Called Wanda) fame. He's spent the last 20 years traveling the world for the BBC in a series of specials. Around the World was the first one, the one that started it all. Watch the shows; they are interesting and fun, but also pick up the companion books. Palin's a good writer with dry wit and self-deprecating humor, yet he never forgets a love and awe for the places he's been and the people he's met.

3. Ciao, America! -- Capturing the odd sights and scents of Beppe Severgnini's destination, Washington D.C., this book is a tale of quirky discoveries in a country obsessed with ice cubes, air-conditioning, recliner chairs, and after-dinner cappuccinos. From their first encounters with cryptic rental listings to their back-to-Europe yard sale twelve months later, the Severgninis explore their new territory with the self-described patience of mildly inappropriate beachcombers.

4. Confederates in the Attic -- While Tony Horwitz isn't usually considered a travel writer, I lump him in because his books usually involve some sort of journey and a strong sense of place. I've read all his books, but my favorite (hands down) is this one. If you haven't read his escapades through the deep south, please do. It's funny, and that's the God's-honest truth. (I had a Southern lady tell me once that Horwitz just "got" Southerners.) His newest is A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World -- about the Europeans who preceded the Pilgrims to America. Not a travel book, per se, but it sounds fascinating.

5. Down the Nile -- I read the blurb on the back of this book, and thought to myself that Rosemary Mahoney is a woman with cahones, because not many women would even consider doing what she did. She was determined to take a solo trip down the Egyptian Nile in a small boat, even though civil unrest and vexing local traditions conspired to create obstacles every step of the way. Whether she's confronting deeply held beliefs about non-Muslim women, finding connections to past chroniclers of the Nile, or coming to the dramatic realization that fear can engender unwarranted violence, Rosemary Mahoney's informed curiosity about the world, her glorious prose, and her wit never fail to captivate.

6. Eat, Pray, Love -- Facing an early mid-life crisis at age 30, Elizabeth Gilbert decided to take a year of life to find herself. Traveling to Italy (the art of pleasure), India (the art of devotion) and Indonesia (for a balance between the two), this book is the chronicle of her adventures and insights. An intensely articulate and moving memoir of self-discovery, it's is about what can happen when you claim responsibility for your own contentment and stop trying to live in imitation of society's ideals.

7. An Embarrassment of Mangoes -- author Ann Vanderhoof and her husband Steve take off for two years on a sailboat and head south from Toronto to the Caribbean. It's the story of their adventures, of life on a smallish sailboat, and of the people they met on the islands. Wonderful, inspiring and fascinating.

8. The Geography of Bliss -- self-proclaimed grump Eric Weiner travels from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of "un-unhappiness." The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is.

9. Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa -- documentary film maker Karin Muller spends a year in Japan trying to figure out the meaning of wa: a transcendent state of harmony, of flow, of being in the zone. With only her Western perspective to guide her, though, she discovers in sometimes awkward, sometimes awesomely funny interactions just how maddeningly complicated it is being Japanese. She as also written Along the Inca Road, about her journeys in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Chile.

10. No Touch Monkey! -- Curator of kitsch and unabashed aficionada of pop culture, Ayun Halliday offers bemused, self-deprecating narration of her itinerant foibles as examples of how not to travel abroad. An admitted bumbling vacationer, Halliday shares, with razorsharp wit and to hilarious effect, the travel stories most are too self-conscious to tell. Besides, who can resist a book with a Steven Colbert blurb on the cover?

11. The Royal Road to Romance -- This is the oldest travel book I've read. It was written in 1925, but it's an exciting and amazing tale of Richard Halliburton's journeys around the world. He literally bummed his way, hitching rides on steamers, stealing trips on trains, biking, walking... things that very few people these days would even think of doing. It's wonderful to read, with a jaunty style that just captivated me. Halliburton was everything a travel writer should be: rash, daring and a lot of fun to accompany on his adventures.

12. Tales of a Female Nomad - In 1986, at the age of 48 and facing an impending divorce, Rita Goldmen Gelman gave up all her possessions and decided to live in third world countries, experiencing what the natives experience. She no longer has a home, and she only owns what she can carry on her back. It's a fascinating and inspiring tale of her experiences.

13. Under the Tuscan Sun -- A love story by Frances Mayes about a her love for a house, a place, a dream. A truly beautiful book to read: her descriptions of the land, the area of Cortone in Tuscany, the house itself and all the renovations, are fabulous and picturesque. She's written several other books including A Year in the World.

14. A Year in Provence -- Like Under the Tuscan Sun, this month-by-month account chronicles the charms and frustrations that Peter Mayle and his wife — and their two large dogs — experience their first year in the remote country of the Luberon restoring a two-centuries-old stone farmhouse that they bought on sight.

15. Yemen: The Unknown Arabia -- Writing with an intimacy and a depth of knowledge gained through thirteen years among the Yemenis, Mackintosh-Smith is a traveling companion of the best sort--erudite, witty, and eccentric. Crossing mountain, desert, ocean, and three millennia of history, he reveals a land that, in the words of a contemporary poet, has become the dictionary of its people.

Voice of Dissent: The Hours

By Heather F.

Every year there is that book. You know. ‘That’ book, the one everyone and their dentist and your cousins’ sisters’ niece is reading and you just have to (have to!) read it as well. I am not usually one who likes to be left out of anything (a gross understatement), so the year The Hours by Michael Cunningham was ‘that’ book, I read it too.

I read it pretty quickly. It is not that hard of a read. And then I sat back and watched all of my reading groups cheer and proclaim to the heavens what an excellent book it was. And I shook my poor, confused head. Did we read the same book? Did I miss something? What was so great about that book?

Everyone talked of how well written it was. I found it to be stilted and pretentious. I thought it lacked style and felt the language was too clipped and abrupt.

Everyone talked of how well Cunningham wrote in the voice of a woman. I found it to be contrived and pompous.

Everyone talked of how well Cunningham captured Virginia Woolf’s voice. Albeit I’ve only read one book by Woolf, but I found the comparison to be lacking. I just could not see Woolf’s genius shining out at me through Cunningham’s words.

I am a firm believer that one can read a book at the wrong time in life and that the mood, maturity and disposition of said reader can affect their reaction to a book. Perhaps the timing was all wrong. Perhaps it was overly hyped. It wouldn’t be the first time, or the last, that a book was recommended to me by many, many people and I was the lone voice of dissent. Possibly I was too immature a reader to read The Hours when I did. I was in my early twenties.

Who knows? Now that I am older and hopefully wiser, I might enjoy it. There is only one problem. The mere thought of picking it up for a reread makes me cringe.

Dos-à-Dos Travel Journal

By Iliana

Every time I travel I check out the latest Lonely Planet Guidebook and while this a great source, sometimes you just don't really want or need to be lugging the whole guidebook. Plus, no guidebook and you won't look like a complete tourist.

So why not make your own travel journal. This way, you can put in all the details of your journey, add some maps, highlight the attractions you want to see, make a note of the restaurants, etc. Not only will it be the perfect guidebook for you, but you'll also have a little journal as a keepsake from your trip.

The Dos-à-Dos structure is easy and perfect as a small travel journal. On one side you can have all the important facts and the other side can be used for journaling.

Materials for a 4 x 7 in. journal

8-10 Sheets of paper, cut to size 8 x 7 in. Use any kind of paper you like.
Cover paper, cut to size 12 x 7 in. (I like Strathmore 80 lbs. textured sheets).
4 Feet of thread. I like embroidery floss as it comes in many colors but you can use waxed linen thread, upholsterer's thread, etc.
Bone folder, Needle, Scissors, Awl, PVA or Craft glue for embellishments.
Embellishments: Maps, stamps, envelope, eyelets, rubber stamps, anything that will make this book yours.


1. Separate your text pages into two stacks. Fold each stack of pages in half. Use your bone folder to make a firm crease. You now have two signatures.

2. Lay a signature on top of the cover sheet at the left end. With your bone folder score along the right edge of the signature. Move the signature so it lines up along the line scored and score another line at the right edge of the signature. Fold cover on first score line, turn cover sheet
over and fold it on the next score line. It will look like the letter “Z” from
the side.

3. Place one signature in the first fold. With an awl poke a hole in the center of the crease. Then poke another hole half way between the bottom of the crease and the first hole. Poke a third hole half way between the top of the crease and the middle hole.

4. Starting on the inside, push the needle through the middle hole and pull through until you have a 3 inch thread tail. Bring the needle from the outside back through the top hole and cross over the middle hole to poke into the bottom hole. Pull the thread firmly. Bring the needle back through the middle hole. Tie the tail to the end of the thread across the long stitch. Make a square knot.

5. Repeat for other signature.

Now you have a book and it's time to decorate it. I used some maps to decorate the covers. I also glued an envelope in one of the covers to keep track of ticket stubs, stamps or any other
ephemera I want to hang on to. And, I added an eyelet in the front cover to wrap some ribbon through it to keep my journal close.

It Came from the 50 Cent Bin (Comic Cents II)

By Chris Buchner

I’m writing this article fresh off the 3rd Annual New York ComicCon (which should give you an idea how far in advance I don’t write these things!) where I spent that entire weekend with my colleagues at the Comicbook Artists Guild table near artist alley doing our thing. It was a great con with a very healthy attendance and a lot of energy behind it. You had your various displays from the publishers and toy manufacturers showing their wares, a few non-comic related things just because, people in costumes and of course vendors selling various products. Amongst those products are, naturally, comic books. And where there’s a convention selling comic books, there are discount bins!

Almost a year ago, I chronicled my escapades at the discount bins at the Big Apple Con held every year at the Penn Plaza Pavilion in New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania. My goal was to show what kind of hidden treasures can be found within, sometimes things you’d never expect to find in those bins. This time around, I was determined to be a little more restrained than I was then (I ended up bringing home almost 600 comics that weekend alone!) but I still did a fair raiding of those bins. With my significantly reduced budget (and the fact I have far too many to read as it is) I kept within specific titles and storylines, filling in gaps in my collection. But, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some gems to be found!

One of the runs I worked on was my Uncanny X-Men line. X-Men comics tend to be expensive the older you go, no matter how far back. That’s because while the X-line is in current disarray and directionless, the older books hold up and are in fairly high demand. Here’s one such gem:

Uncanny X-Men #251, the pinnacle issue of the then-new character Jubilee’s budding superhero career. This is the issue where Wolverine was crucified by the cybernetic mercenaries, the Reavers, and Jubilee eventually comes to his aid. This begins her role as his unofficial sidekick, and restores Wolverine’s father figure role previously had with Kitty Pryde, aka Shadowcat. Although the condition of my copy isn’t near mint, I did get this comic for just two quarters…you can’t beat that!

Actually, you can. Not only did I find this issue, but the particular bins I was going through had a fairly complete run of the X-Men books from the 200s through the 400s, as well as X-Force and some of the classic X-Factor. Granted, I already had a good portion of the books, but for anyone else that’s a good way to either build up or plug up your collection.

Also, I had started reading Image Comics’ The Darkness just before volume 2 had ended. Thanks to the 50 cent bins, I was able to get most of the run of volume 1, all in excellent condition as if I just bought them from the comic shop.

Todd McFarlane rose to superstardom in the late 80s, early 90s when he became the artist on the Amazing Spider-Man for 28 issues, and then was given his own title to both write AND draw in Spider-Man. It was during this run on Amazing that Venom would come about, ushering in a new era of villain/anti-hero for the next decade. Because of this, while most of the run from the late 200 numbers through most of the 300s are valued and retail pretty high, the McFarlane issues of Amazing are usually valued a bit higher than most. I was able to find numbers 310 and 320-323, which is four parts of a six-part story, in pretty decent condition.

Just in time for Superman’s 70th anniversary, the 50th anniversary issue of Action Comics.

One of my more recent personal project story ideas revolved around the classic rivalry between Daredevil and the Punisher. In order to research for it and get it as accurate in interpretation as possible, I set out to get every pairing I could find of the two. Thanks to, I was able to purchase all but one issue they had listed as featuring the Punisher. Of course, what should I find in the bins but the issue in question!

I also ended up finding a few of the other ones I had already bought. Just goes to show, you never know what you’ll find in these things.

Lastly for this edition, there are times when I miss a comic here or there. Other times, I jump on a book late and my shop may already be sold out of previous issues. Two of these titles, Superman: Birthright #1 and X-Universe #2, that I had contemplated buying for $1 from a discount website, you guessed it, I found in the 50 cent bins!

So, what will YOU find?

It's Not Easy, Being Green

by Heather F.

As the pressure to better our environment grows through media reports, campaign promises and a self desire to better the world, I find myself exploring different ways I can help. There are little things, baby steps that I am already doing; I’ve stopped using plastic bags. I’ve started buying better light bulbs, toilet paper made from recycled materials, and discontinued the use of Styrofoam and plastic cups, which is a good start, sure, but what more can I do for my planet? Plenty! And these books are a good place to start.

Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth Friendly Life
by Sophie Uliano

Sophie Uliano is an environmentalist with style. Her book, Gorgeously Green, is fast becoming a bestseller and offers a simple, eight-step, program that is an easy and fun way to start living a better, greener lifestyle. She’ll help you sort out all aspects of your life. With practical, optimistic, and forward-thinking panache, Uliano tackles everything from your beauty regime to your kitchen and on to your transportation. Uliano is your go-to gal with all the answers and shows that going green does not have to be a boring, time-consuming and can be glamorous!

The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time By Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas Kostigen

Elizabeth Rogers' book gives practical advice for how you can better your environment. Here are some interesting facts:

-Don’t ask for ATM receipts. If everyone in the United States refused their receipts, it would save a roll of paper more than two billion feet long, or enough to circle the equator fifteen times!

- Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. You’ll conserve up to five gallons of water per day. Throughout the entire United States, the daily savings could add up to more water than is consumed every day in all of New York City.

- Get a voice-mail service for your home phone. If all answering machines in U.S. homes were replaced by voice-mail services, the annual energy savings would total nearly two billion kilowatt hours. The resulting reduction in air pollution would be equivalent to removing 250,000 cars from the road for a year!

With humor and confidence, Rogers and Kostigen offer hundreds of ways to make small changes that add up to make a big impact on our planet.

Sure I Know the Queen, May 2008

By Jodie

The great thing about literature is that it is capable of change. New forms of literary expression appear and our personal views about books can change with each reading. New authors are also capable of effecting change on old classics through the form of revisionist fiction, where a writer creates a different version of a text written by another author in order to express new opinions on the story. Many British classics have been revised in this way such as Jane Eyre in Wide Sargasso Sea, Robinson Crusoe in Foe and most recently Rebecca in Rebecca’s Tale.

The main point of much revisionist fiction is to give a voice to a character in the story who has been denied one. They may lack the ability to express their thoughts for many reasons; in Rebecca it is because of death, in Robinson Crusoe because of a physical inability to speak and in Jane Eyre because of madness. All these books contain characters who have been rendered speechless, for some reason, by the authors who have created them, and the revisionist companions to these books aim to give them a measure of justice by providing them with a forum in which to explain their side of the story. As this is revisionist fiction’s purpose, it often gives voice to the thoughts of minorities as they were traditionally denied the means to refute the opinions of the main narrator who is usually associated with the dominant portion of society in some way.

Jane Eyre boasts a truly independent female narrator but her happy ending comes from the death of another woman, Mr Rochester’s first wife ‘Bertha’ who he met in the West Indies. Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea follows the assumption of many critics that while Charlotte Bronte championed female emancipation in Jane she found it easy to subjugate Bertha, once she realised that it was necessary. This idea is based on the feeling that Bertha is quietly marked as a woman of mixed race in Jane Eyre. It is judged possible that Charlotte Bronte understood the realities of her world well enough to see that a strong, sensible female narrator created by a female writer would be derided, so she included a mad, evil woma to divert their hatred from Jane. By making her West Indian and almost certainly mixed race could have been Charlotte Bronte’s way of separating her from the main body of women, who she wished to champion. Her male audience would be unable or at least unwilling to tie Bertha to Jane as white women were supposed to be a higher order to black women. This allowed her to make Jane self-reliant while also showing an agreeable reflection of men’s idea that females were weak, unbalenced and dangerous. No suggestion that Jane shared this madness of gender would be allowed as no white man would want to admit any kind of equality, even a negative one among women of different races. Charlotte Bronte would be able to create a successful case for the great abilities of her gender yet also give men someone to dislike and sneer at, appeasing them and diverting them from sniggering at Jane.

In this way we can see how Bertha’s madness appears not as a natural facet of her character, as is maintained in Jane Eyre, but as a lie imposed by the dominating force of her white author. This is the idea that Jean Rhys’ novel Wide Sargasso Sea translates into fiction as she removes Bertha’s madness and gives Rochester’s first wife a means of expression. In doing so, she analyses a fictional novel as if it were a historical source relating to real events. She thinks about who has created this source and looks at how their biases, social position or race may have given them motives for portraying events in a certain way. Based on an examination of the author’s probable biases Rhys determines it unlikely that the book shows Bertha as she really was and in doing so follows a school of literary criticism that has been around for years. Rhys and her fellow revisionists then take it one step further by setting out to rewrite events in a different way and shaping a novel around how they think things might have happened.

This is my favourite thing about revisionist works; their authors have become so involved another’s fictional world that they are invested in characters as if they were real people who could be treated unfairly by their own authors. To some people it may seem unbelievable presumptuous or ignorant to butt into another author’s creation but I see it as a sign of good literature when it stimulates debate and encourages rebuttal. This argumentative stirring is a sign that people are talking about books and fiction as seriously as they might about the state of the economy or politics. It is an encouraging indicator that the arts are still important to people.

Back to the 90s: Knightfall

by Chris Buchner

Welcome to the first in a series of articles going in-depth on the various events in the comics of the 1990s. “Batman RIP” is an upcoming storyline from DC comics whose rumors mention Batman’s either retirement or death and subsequent replacement. With that in mind, I thought it appropriate that the kick-off article in the series be about the first time DC did that in the 90s. This is Batman: Knightfall. The story ran through all the Batman titles from 1993 to 1995. However, the story really begins with the introduction of two new characters to the Bat-mythos: Azrael and Bane.

Azrael was an anti-hero created by Denny O’Neil and current Marvel Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada for 1992’s Batman: Sword of Azrael. Born Jean-Paul Valley, he was a test tube baby whose genes have been spliced with those of animals to make him the latest in a line of assassin-enforcers for the secret society The Sacred Order of Saint Dumas. He was unknowingly brainwashed with a deep level of psychological conditioning known as “The System,” revealed to him only upon the death of his father and his predecessor to the mantle of Azrael. Taking over and assigned to kill a weapons dealer, he crosses paths with Batman, is shown the error of his ways, and Batman helps break his conditioning to help forge his own destiny as a hero in training.

Bane is a villain created by Chuck Dixon, Dough Moench, and Graham Nolan who first appeared in 1993’s Batman: Vengeance of Bane. He was born and made to serve out his father’s life sentence in the prison of the hellish town of Santa Prisca’s Pena Duro prison. He studied and exercised, eventually rising to king of the prison. Already at Olympic-level strength, that strength would become far more enhanced with his discovery and use of the powerful super-steroid known as Venom. Bane also developed an obsession with Gotham City and Batman, hearing of his exploits even in that far away prison. He became determined to defeat the Bat.

Bane escaped from prison and came to Gotham, engaging Batman in a series of encounters to let him know of his presence and intentions to dominate Gotham. His plan came to fruition in Batman #491 when Bane released all the inmates of Arkham Asylum and supplied them with weapons. His plan was to have Batman face each one of those villains, causing him to become weaker and weaker with each encounter. The plan works as Batman faces some of his greatest foes, from the Joker to Scarecrow to the Ventriloquist to Victor Zsasz. Batman was determined to take these foes down on his own, driving a rift between himself and Tim Drake, the current Robin.

Bane had deduced that Bruce Wayne was Batman, and confronted the weary hero in Wayne Manor in Batman #497. Their confrontation ended with Bane snapping Batman’s back over his knee like a twig, crippling the hero. With Batman out of the way, Bane assumes control of Gotham and numerous illegal operations within it.

Bruce Wayne enlists the aid of physiotherapist Shondra Kinsloving to help rehabilitate him while asking Valley to take up the mantle of Batman and protect Gotham. Robin argues against this decision, feeling Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing and the original Robin, should assume the role as he has more experience and competence to do so. Dick also expresses resentment towards being passed up. Bruce says Dick has his own priorities now, but secretly didn’t want to risk that he would go up against Bane and end up in the same condition or worse. As if to prove his point, against strict orders, Valley tries to take on Bane but barely survives the encounter.

It’s at this point in the books that the story becomes Knightquest and is split into two directions. Kinsloving and Robin’s father Jack Drake are kidnapped and Bruce and Alfred, his loyal butler and practically surrogate father, leave the country to find them in Knightquest: The Search. Valley’s adventures in Gotham were chronicled in Knightquest: The Crusade.


During his rehabilitation, Bruce Wayne had fallen in love with Kinsloving, his physiotherapist. When she and Jack Drake were kidnapped by her brother-by-adoption Benedict Asp, Bruce and Alfred set out to find and rescue them. It’s revealed that Kinsloving had healing powers. When mixed with Asp’s own psychic powers, their combined abilities become a lethal telekinetic assault. He uses this ability on a small English village, killing everyone there. Wayne helps Kinsloving confront Asp, but the drugs forced into her system by him to make her more complacent and effects of the fight itself reduce her to the mentality of a child. A side effect of the battle repairs Bruce’s spine, and Bruce reluctantly places her into a mental institution where she can be cared for. Bruce eventually decides to return to a civilian life in Gotham, but Alfred decides to remain behind, not wanting to see Bruce damage his body further.


Valley had taken up the mantle of Batman, with a noticeably different style than his predecessor. However, the differences were increased when, during a confrontation with the Scarecrow, he was infected by the villain’s fear gas and “The System” took over to combat it. The fear had subsided, but “The System” was still in effect and Valley was feeling its influence, especially after his defeat at Bane’s hands. He becomes paranoid and arrogant, alienating Robin and becoming more vicious and brutal. In his new mechanical suit loaded with weapons and gimmicks, Valley confronts Bane again and defeats him both mentally and physically. Opting to let Bane go to Blackgate Prison rather than kill him, Valley continues on as Batman growing increasingly unstable and feeling that a sterner, more violent hand is needed to deal with what he regards as an even more dangerous Gotham.

Robin is often horrified at the methods Valley uses under the influence of “The System,” beating common criminals almost to death usually with some kind of weapon. Valley constantly redesigns his costume to hold more gadgets, usually of the lethal variety. In fact, these actions resulted in his letting Abattoir, a serial killer who was keeping an innocent prisoner hostage in a secret torture chamber only he knew about, die during a crisis of conscience. With Abattoir dead, his victim was also sentenced to die rather than be rescued.

Valley expresses a desire to be a better Batman than Bruce Wayne ever was, but lacks the detective skills Wayne had. This resulted in a confrontation between himself and a reformed Catwoman whom he believed was trying to sell a nerve gas to terrorists when, in fact, she was trying to dispose of it safely. This surge of violence causes a strain on the relationship Batman once shared with Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, who has come to realize this new Batman is not the same one he’s known all these years. Because of their strong bonds to the original Batman, Catwoman and the Joker also came to realize the new Batman really was a new Batman.


With the individual storylines having run their course over the last year of publication, the KnightSaga, as it has come to be known, converged together once again to become KnightsEnd. While the other parts all had their own time to tell a complete story in depth, KnightsEnd needed to be concluded within two months’ time so that the Batman books could join in the DC-wide event known as Zero Hour (which will be covered in a future article, so stay tuned!). To accomplish this without truncating the story, all the books in the Batman family of titles were utilized, including Catwoman, Robin, and Legends of the Dark knight, which was usually set in Batman’s first year as a crime fighter.

Under the influence of “The System,” Valley had begun to see the ghosts of his ancestors giving him advice on how to run Gotham, helping drive him towards insanity. One ghost was that of his father, telling him to avenge his death. Despite the fact that killer, Carlton Lehah had already been defeated in Sword of Azrael, Valley’s mind was warped so much that he didn’t remember the incident and saw mobster Selkirk, now the head of Lehah’s organization, as the murderer.

Bruce returns to Gotham and is impressed by Valley enough to let him remain Batman until Robin fills him in on events since he’s been gone. Bruce confronts Valley demanding he step down, but Valley refuses. In order to take Valley on, Bruce enlists the aid of the deadly assassin Lady Shiva to retrain him, as he had once been the only person able to survive a fight with her. She pits him against several expert martial artists after killing their master, and letting Bruce use his identity as the Mask of Tengu for a disguise. The training would only end once Bruce broke his vow to never take a life. During a fight, Bruce uses a deadly Leopard Blow Shiva taught him, leaving his assailant dead and letting Shiva depart with the belief that his training was complete and he would be ready to face her at a later time of her choosing.

Nightwing and Robin, having seen the event, express their disappointment in Bruce’s giving in, but when the assassin revives Bruce reveals he had restrained the blow enough to let Shiva be convinced he had killed. He believed himself to be ready.

Retrieving his costume from the Batcave, he and the other two heroes track Valley down to Selkirk’s penthouse where Catwoman was also coincidentally heading to retrieve a neural enabler to allow a paraplegic to walk again. The heroes confront Valley, saving Selkirk’s life as a helicopter he tried to escape in was downed and set on fire. Nightwing confronts Valley on a party boat in Gotham harbor, but the insane man proves too much for him. Only the arrival of the police saves his life by causing Valley to flee back to Wayne Manor.

There, he finds Batman waiting for him. Batman lures Valley into a chase through the caverns of the Batcave. One section of the catacombs is too small for Valley’s bulky armor, and he’s forced to remove most of it in order to continue his pursuit. Batman finally takes him up to an escape hatch covering the hole that Bruce fell into as a child, allowing him to first discover the caves under the mansion. The pure daylight hits Valley’s night-vision lenses, temporarily blinding him. When he can see again, Valley finds the original Batman standing above him, and concedes that he failed in his goal to be a better Batman. Since it was his decision to have Valley replace him, Batman doesn’t turn him in. Instead, he allows Valley to travel the world and find his purpose in life, much the same way Bruce had done before he became Batman.


Bruce mends his strained relationship with Robin and passes on the mantle of Batman to Nightwing during the “Prodigal” storyline while he re-evaluates what it will take to restore his aura of invincibility. Dick, as Batman, sets out with Robin to round up the rest of the escaped inmates Bane freed from Arkham, allowing a firm bond to form between the two. It would be some time before Commissioner Gordon restored his full trust in the idea of Batman being good, noticing that this seemingly old Batman had some physical differences from the last two he knew. Eventually, Bruce would return to the role in the story “Troika” with a new look and Batmobile, and Nightwing would talk Alfred into returning to Wayne Manor in the one-shot Alfred’s Return.


Batman: Sword of Azrael #1-4
Batman: Vengeance of Bane #1

Batman #491-492
Detective Comics #659
Batman #493
Detective Comics #660
Batman #494
Detective Comics #661
Batman #495
Detective Comics #662
Batman #496
Detective Comics #663
Batman #497
Detective Comics #664
Showcase ’93 #7-8
Batman #498
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #16-18
Detective Comics #665
Batman #499
Detective Comics #666
Batman #500

Detective Comics #667-668
Robin #1
Detective Comics #669
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #19-20
Batman #501-502
Catwoman #6
Batman #503-504
Catwoman #7
Detective Comics #670
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #24-25
Detective Comics #671-673
Batman #505
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #26-27
Batman #506-507
Detective Comics #674
Batman #508
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #28
Detective Comics #675
Robin #7

Justice League Task Force #5-6
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #21-23
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #59-61
Robin #7

Batman #509
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #29
Detective Comics #676
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #62
Robin #8
Catwoman #12
Batman #510
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #30
Detective Comics #677
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #63

Robin #9
Catwoman #13
Showcase ’94 #10

AFTERMATH: “Prodigal”
Batman #512
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #32
Detective Comics #679
Robin #11
Batman #513
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #33
Detective Comics #680
Robin #12
Batman #514
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #34
Detective Comics #681
Robin #13

Batman #515
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #35
Detective Comics #682
Robin #14
Nightwing: Alfred’s Return

The Patron Saint of Butterflies

by Cecilia Galante
Bloomsbury Publishing
Reviewed by Melissa

I wouldn't expect to be the first to jump up and say "read a book about a couple of girls from a religious commune"; the whole idea weirds me out, and I try to stay away from the whole idea of communities following what invariably ends up being some wacko. But I was engrossed by this book. It was a very intense read, at least for me: religious, but not preachy, full of interesting characters and tough questions. I was captivated by the story, torn between horror at the things that the main characters were experiencing and doing, and disbelief that these things would actually be happening. (Yet, all I had to do was tune into the news to realize that they can and do.)

Since the author actually lived in a religious commune until the age of 15, this book could have very easily been a skewed story, one way or the other. I did feel like something was "missing" (I couldn't quite put my finger on it; perhaps it was only my skewed journalistic desire for the "truth"), but I did think she balanced the views of the two characters quite well through the dual narrative. I think it was absolutely necessary that the story be told through both Honey's and Agnes's point of view, and Galante manages it extremely well. I got a full sense of what each girl was like, and Galante managed to take each one on a separate (yet parallel) journey that complemented one another. Because of this, the reader gets a fuller picture of the overarching plot, and it added a unique depth to the story.

Of the two characters, weird as it sounds, I liked Agnes better. Perhaps its because, like her, I'm a believer in religion (though not necessarily a commune...). I found that while I felt some of Agnes's beliefs were warped and weird, . I could still sense Agnes's faith in them, and understand why she believes that way. I understood her fears about leaving the only life she's known. And I thought Agnes's journey was probably more profound than Honey's; she not only had to realize that what was going on in the compound was damaging, she had to come to terms with the implication of that realization. Her foundation of her religious belief system was shattered, and Galante described Agnes's doubt and pain quite well.

Honey, on the other hand, was always dismissive of the community -- she'd been an outsider since the beginning, being born to a single mother, who left soon after Honey's birth -- and so her journey was a bit different. Her voice was more angry, more grating, but even so, I admired her strength and ability to stand against the force of the community. I admired her determination to do what needed to be done, no matter the personal cost, and to stand up and take responsibility. She was obviously the more mature of the two characters, so her journey didn't need to be as life-changing. Still, without Honey, Agnes would have never gone on hers, so Honey was crucial to the plot and the characterization of Agnes.

But, the main reason for reading this isn't the good plot or the balanced storytelling, or even the compelling characters (though those are all good reasons). It's because it's a great story, about love and family and friendship and finding oneself even when all seems lost. What more could a person ask for out of a book?


by Colette Gale
Signet Eclipse
Reviewed by Andi

Master, Colette Gale's follow-up erotic novel to 2007's Unmasqued, is a retelling of another great classic. This time around, Gale takes aim at Alexandre Dumas's timeless tale, The Count of Monte Cristo.

After years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, Edmond Dantes intends to exact revenge on those who put him in exile and the woman who broke his heart. He returns to Paris in the guise of the powerful Count of Monte Cristo seeking vengeance.

Mercedes Herrera was heartbroken when her Edmond disappeared, and she ends up in a loveless marriage to the slimy Fernand Morcerf. Upon Edmond's return as the Count of Monte Cristo, only Mercedes sees through his guise, and she soon realizes that his goals for revenge include her.

A blog reader recently commented at my site that she didn't know if she could handle "a sexed up version of The Count of Monte Cristo," so maybe I'm lucky that I haven't read Cristo before, and I'm not terribly familiar with the premise. In fact, I'm far less familiar with Dumas's work than I was with Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera when I reviewed Unmasqued.

While I don't like to brag that I haven't read these great classics (yet!), I do think it put me at an advantage as I read Master. I had no expectations, there was no prior story to "live up to," and I certainly couldn't get my feelings hurt because so-and-so slept with so-and-so. You get the picture. I enjoyed a rollicking and intense adventure about love and sex. And it was juicy! I might even venture to say that it was a heck of a ride. Pun most definitely intended.

While the book started out slowly--carefully laying the groundwork of what is undoubtedly a complicated original novel--it quickly built up speed and became an involving story. What I love about Gale's erotica is that it's literally what every woman I know wants out of the erotic--a well thought story that includes hot sex. It's so much more involving when one can care about the characters and what happens to them in and out of the sack.

I was certainly compelled not only by the smouldering Edmond Dantes, but also the heart wrenching life of Mercedes Herrera. Trapped in her icky marriage to Morcerf, she's given up the dream that Edmond might still be alive, and she focuses much of her attention on her beloved son, Albert. She really is very devoted to his well being and keeping him safe as he begins his journey through the world as an adult.

There are a variety of convincing, very human characters in this story. It's not just about the sex. So, if you're longing for a retelling, this might be a book you should consider. I'm off to secure the original novel.


by Julie Bertagna
Walker & Company
Reviewed by Melissa

This book has a brilliant concept: it's 2100, the ice caps at the top of the world have melted, and on the island of Wing, they're scraping for survival. Until 15-year-old Mara convinces them it's time to leave and head toward New Mungo, a city built above the water when the Earth first started flooding. The islanders get there, only to find out that the city is closed to all refugees and there's nowhere else to go. After the death of her best friend, Mara gets desperate, and finds a way beyond the walls, only to find a society of people living in the Netherworld under the sky city. It's up to her to find a way to rescue her friends and find a home for everyone where they can start again and live a better life than the half-existence they have now.

It's an excellent dystopian fiction premise, using global warming (instead of a nuclear holocaust or disease) as the catalyst for a new society. And Bertagna has some great dystopian elements: the overbearing, controlling society; the half-animal beings that have perpetuated under the sky city; the society that has formed, complete with a savior mythos; the desperate heroine, intent upon saving the world, which always comes with a cost. There's action, there's despair. There's dank, smelly, toxic waters. There's the secret police.

So, why am I not completely thrilled by this book?

Primarily, I think it was the tense that the book was written in. For some reason, present tense always bugs me. For example (completely random sentence): "Mara stops because all she really wanted was to see her friends before the island barricades itself indoors again." That drives me nuts. I think I want my action to have happened (it's not currently happening while I'm reading it; it happened previously, before the book was written) when I read a book. It took me about half the book before I stopped being distracted by the verb tense. Not a good omen.

Additionally, I felt the characters were a bit wooden (though I admit this might have a bit to do with my tense hang-up). There was a love story that I completely missed (They were in love? When did that happen?). The action fell flat. The underworld society wasn't compelling enough. The character that could have been sinister and life-threatening didn't seem sinister, but more like an annoying bully. The foundation was there for everything to soar, and it just never quite took off.

All that said, the idea is a brilliant one. And since global warming is here to stay, perhaps someone else can write a better global warming dystopian novel than this one.

Cathedral of the Sea

By Ildefonso Falcones
Penguin Group
Reviewed by Elaine Simpson-Long

I was sent a copy of Cathedral of the Sea for review at Christmas time, but its 650+ pages and door stop size daunted me somewhat so I left it in my To be Read pile for a bit.


I picked it up a week or so ago and started to read and was immediately captivated. It had to be my reading-at-home-in-the-evening book as it just could not come on the commute; my arms would have been two inches longer by the time I carried this, plus all the other paraphernalia I cart backwards and forwards each day, but this week I gave in and took it with me on the train as I was enjoying it so much and could not wait to finish it.

This is a stonking good read. One of those huge, sprawling, historical epics full of colourful characters, glorious settings--in this case 14th century Barcelona--cruelty, lust, witchcraft and, just to make it even more exciting, the Spanish Inquisition. As I am visiting Barcelona this week and going to see Don Carlos, with its auto da fe and Spanish Inquisition scene, at the Royal Opera at the end of June, this piqued my interest even more.

Bernat and his son Arnau are two serfs who are on the run from the tyrannical rule of their feudal lord, who had raped Bernat's wife and stole his lands. They came to Barcelona where, if they lived for a year and a day, they could become free men and took refuge with Bernat's sister and her husband, neither of whom were happy to have them there. Arnau is a lonely child and one day comes across the church of Santa Maria in which is a statue of the Virgin of the Sea who he adopts as his mother. It is in this church and its surroundings that he receives friendship and love, growing up in its environs and becoming a bastaix, one of a band of men who carry the stone for the building of the new church from the local quarry and who are treated with respect by the citizens of the city.

To give you even a truncated version of the story of Cathedral of the Sea would still mean a mighty long review, so all I will say is that Arnau's journey from slave to nobleman is a fascinating one. He becomes rich and influential after catching the king's eye because of his courage in battle and is married to the king's niece Eleonore, who he does not love. His new found wealth and position, though justly earned, excites the jealousy of those who resent his rise and who begin to plot against him, bringing him into eventual conflict with the dreaded Spanish Inquisition.

What I love about historical novels is that they are always full of colour. Sometimes when I read contemporary fiction it appears to me in black and white, or pale colours. I know that sounds a bit eccentric but there it is, whereas books such as this one teem with vivid glorious shades of gold, amber, turquoise and purple, you can feel the heat of the sun, envisage the blue of the sea and the sky and almost warm yourself while you are reading. The language seems richer and vivid even when describing something as simple as different coins, the words just roll off the tongue:

"...the ones the Muslims use; bezants, mazmudinas, and gold bezants......French tournois, Castillian gold doblas, the gold florins struck in Florence and those minted in Genoa, ducats from Venice... reales from Valencia and Mallorcae, the gros from Montpelier."

And the clothes:

"He donned white sleevelss shirt made of hte finest Malines cloth trimmed with fur, a red silk damascene doublet came to his hose and black silk shoes. He fastened the doublet round his waist with a wide belt that had gold threads and was studded with pearls........then a marvellous black cloak...lined with ermine and embroidered with gold and precious stones."

Wonderful .

Quite often with books I am sent to review, when I have read them I pass them on to others to read and enjoy, but not this one. This is staying firmly on my bookshelves.

Bizarre New World Population Explosion

Reviewed by Chris Buchner

Bizarre New World: Population Explosion is the follow-up to last year’s mini-series Bizarre New World by Ape Entertainment. For those who might have missed it, here’s the meat and bones of the tale:

Paul Krutcher was an average man leading an average life until the day he suddenly and mysteriously gained the ability to fly. Fearing what the reaction to his ability might be, Paul decided to keep it a secret while at the same time learning all he could about his ability through practice and research. Then, one day, someone named Matthew appeared on the scene also with the ability to fly, except unlike Paul he went public and gained instant fame and awe. But, that was short lived as suddenly people everywhere started taking to the sky.

Population Explosion takes place during the first 24 hours of humankind’s discovery that their world has changed forever. As everyone flops around in the air about as gracefully as Paul did upon his initial discovery, Paul’s frustration of no longer being unique or recognition as the first gets interrupted by a frantic phone call from his son Sean who lives in Arizona with his ex-wife. Now Paul must get to his son as quickly as possible while navigating through this bizarre new world.

Much like the first mini-series, this edition was an enjoyable read. The story is firmly grounded in reality enough to balance out the fantastic and make it seem like it could actually one day happen (however, I recommend not trying to jump off your garage just yet). One of the ingenious aspects of Skipper Martin’s script is he takes his own research into the topic of flight and transcribes it word for word within the pages of the book. This adds a lot of credibility to the story, and the methods Paul uses to fly. It also provides a little education for the reader. A bonus in this issue is it allowed Skipper to give his character a costume of sorts. The character interactions are believable and there are a few funny moments that play out that you can believe will really happen. There’s a firm grasp of human behavior present here.

Christopher Provencher’s pencils are once again nicely complimented by Wes Dzioba’s colors. The style adds to that realistic, grounded feel the story goes for while keeping it light and fun. And just like the first go around, the scenes using landscape are breathtakingly beautiful. Tone Rodriguez’s contribution as cover artist this time around blends in with Provencher’s artwork perfectly, and the second Superman homage in this series was nicely done (the first being the variant cover for Bizarre #1 parodying the cover to Superman #1).

The only negative I can see with this story is the pacing. After the phone call, we see traces of the frantic panic that would befall any father when his kid is in trouble. However, the pacing of the book from that point on didn’t quite invoke that feeling. Also, the conversation in the diner towards the end felt a little out of place. Perhaps it was better left towards the end of the book as it makes sense within the context of the story, but again, that pacing.

Overall, another solid effort by this crew and Ape Entertainment. The story is as informative and thought provoking while being fun and light as the mini-series with the artwork to back it up. It’s not about heroes in tights like most comics; it’s about an ordinary man who discovers one day he has an incredible ability and his journey in trying to figure out how to deal with it. The mini-series dealt with that discovery, and this issue continues that journey. This is a recommended read for anyone who has ever wanted to fly, or just wants to experience as fresh a comic as you can get in today’s marketplace. And, with another open ending with a promised third chapter in this saga to come, the ride isn’t over yet. You’ll still believe that a man can fly.