Monday, December 01, 2008

Books I REALLY Wanted to Like

Oh, wow, it has been a super long time since I've posted, hasn't it. And surprise, surprise, I'm posting about comics.

Something that has been interesting to me is watching "real" writers dabble in comics. Once upon a time, back in the Dark Ages (a.k.a. 5 less than five years ago) comics writers were at the bottom of the food chain as far as writers go. Even fanfic writers looked down on them. But then, some comic book writers starting writing prose books, some big budget movies came out, and voila! All of a sudden it's "cool" to write comics.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I like comics, and anything that gets people interested in comics means more comics get made, which means more comics for me to like. However, writing comics isn't like writing a book, or a newspaper article, or even a movie. If you don't know what you're doing, don't add another crummy comic to the world.

Tamora Pierce is one of my favorite writers ever. I've read all of her books, hung out on her website, am reading her books to my daughter, and would basically turn into a slavering fangirl if I ever met her. So, a Tamora Pierce graphic novel should be manna from heaven, right? I wish this were true.

In White Tiger: A Hero's Compulsion, Pierce tells the story of Angela Del Toro, a former FBI agent who inherits mystical amulets that give her superhuman strength and speed. Since she's from a family of cops, she's already got above average skills, which the amulets only augment. So far, so good, right? I mean, everything is right in Pierce's wheelhouse -- a strong woman, who with the help of mystical guidance, and the support of those around her, fulfills her destiny as a hero and a champion. This sort of thing is Pierce's bread and butter. Problem is, this is a Marvel book, and as such, is so tied up in Marvel's convoluted back story and continuity that there is really no chance for Pierce to let the characters breathe. Honestly, if Tamora Pierce's name wasn't on the cover, I would think this story had been written by any number of Marvel staff members.

The second book I was interested in was Wonder Woman: Love and Murder, by Jodi Picoult. Wonder Woman is the most iconic female comic book character ever, and it's rare for a woman to write her. Also piquing my interest is my ...complicated relationship with Picoult. Second Glance is one of my favorite books ever, and I loved My Sister's Keeper the first time I read it, but lately, I really think that she writes the same book over and over and over again. Since that wouldn't be possible in a Wonder Woman graphic novel, I was intrigued.

Much like A Hero's Compulsion, Love and Murder gets bogged down in continuity issues. Picoult had to work within a existing storyline "event" that was stupid to begin with, and that doesn't get any better here. That's not her fault, but some of the things that are wrong with this book are; namely, Picoult doesn't seem to know all that much about Wonder Woman, characterizing her as a supernaturally powerful hick. Really -- Diana's lived in Man's World for a while now, and you're telling me she doesn't know how to order coffee? What is interesting to me is that Picoult is much better at writing the bad guys than she is writing the heroes; Diana's foes are much more interesting than Wonder Woman is.

I really wanted to like these books. There aren't enough female writers and artists in comics, and having big names work on high profile books like these should be a good thing. Who knows, maybe if these "real" writers keep practicing, they may eventually get it right.


Karen said...

I know I am in the minority, but I cannot stand Jodi Picoult as a writer. I can't imagine Wonder Woman in her hands, and I think I am even now in the process of blocking out this information for my own psychological well-being. When I saw her name on the cover, I honestly thought you had photo-shopped it for some puzzling though amusing purpose of your own.

Merideth said...


I don't read Jodi Picoult anymore. As I said, she tends to write the same book over and over. What was charming the first time I read it now reads as contrived. And My Sister's Keeper does not hold up on re-reading.

Also, I think she has Mommy issues. Especially mothers who work. Actually, the mommy thing would make her a nice fit for Wonder Woman. :)

Karen said...

You think she has issues with mothers who work, as in that's a negative thing? Interesting. Elaborate, please!