Katsuhiro Otomo – Akira, vols. 1 thru 6 (2011-ish reissue)
June 19, July 9, July 21
“Oh, you’re reading Akira?” asked Schwern, spotting the books in my room. “How is it as a comic?”
“Coherent!” I said.
Yeah anyway, this isn’t like the movie at all. If you’re as interested in adaptation failure as I am: mandatory read. (I use the term “failure” loosely, as the movie was obvs a triumph on any number of aesthetic axes, but those axes did not include “making any damn sense,” “engaging the small matter of Akira coming back to life and ruling a psychic empire,” “keeping faith with the story’s core themes [as opposed to its superficial themes],” “treating the female characters better than dogs in the street,” etc.)
Also, the cartooning is fucking incredible.
As for the story, it was engaging and frustrating in equal measure. I’ll say this about it: it added up to a novel-length whole that was actually worth getting annoyed at, whereas the only argument the movie was worthy of was a mute button.
Sidenote: It was actually the Bartkira project that got me re-interested in reading this — a bunch of folk on Tumblr rigged up this project to re-draw every page of Akira with Simpsons characters, five pages at a time, and the results were much more interesting to me than I thought they’d be. Since they were redrawing it panel-for-panel, you could see dozens of different minds trying to figure out what Otomo was doing with his layouts and compositions, and it added up to this decomposed cubist consideration-in-toto of what Akira’s cartooning did right. And the layers of meta were fascinating too, since it essentially turned the cast of the Simpsons into actors putting on a play of Akira, and I kind of loved that. I dunno if you heard about that scheme a while back to do a live-action Hollywood Akira cast with white people and set in New York (it died on the vine and good riddance), but some Tumblr commentator referenced it and said that Bartkira was actually the Akira adaptation America deserved, and I think I agree: this is a story built around the very specifically Japanese neuroses of the last century, and a summer-theater tribute performance is much better and more respectful than trying to tear out its skeleton and tell a story about something completely unrelated. (Supposedly a downloadable compilation of Bartkira will eventually show up; I’ll post a link when and if I see one.)
There was this other effect too, which was that I came at the series understanding the characters as icons and archetypes rather than engaging with them entirely as they were. Dunno what exactly to say about that.
T.A. Pratt – Dead Reign
I forgot what I was going to say about this, but I quite enjoyed it. This was the one with the New Death causing problems everywhere.
Martha Wells – The Death of the Necromancer (re-read)
Wells gets huge points for running with gaspunk and steampunk ideas years before anyone else was in the game (originally published: 1998), and bonus points for handing protagonist duties to a stylish Moriarty-esque crime lord.
This is a bit more scattershot and wandering than I remember it, but still a real fun book. I consider the Fall of Ile Rien series (which follows the daughter of DotN’s protagonist, among others) vastly superior, but my brother disagrees with me and thinks this is the tour-de-force of her pre-Raksura ouvre. YMMV.