December 30, 2009

Dave's Unspoilt Capsules and Awards

The Week's Picks and Pans, plus Awards of Dubious Merit Standard Disclaimers: Please set appropriate followups. Recommendation does not factor in price. Not all books will have arrived in your area this week. An archive can be found on my homepage, The set of all comicbook reviews is not itself a review. Or is it? Items of Note (strongly recommended or otherwise worthy): Logicomix "Other Media" Capsules: Things that are comics-related but not necessarily comics (i.e. comics-based movies like Iron Man or Hulk), or that aren't going to be available via comic shops (like comic pack-ins with DVDs) will go in this section when I have any to mention. They may not be as timely as comic reviews, especially if I decide to review novels that take me a week or two (or ten) to get around to. Brody's Ghost Part 1 (of 4): MySpace Dark Horse Presents - The latest project from Mark Crilley is getting launched as part of Dark Horse's online arm, thus falling under the not-in-comic-shops part of the section descriptor. This first "issue" will be serialized over four months of MSDHP, eight pages at a time, which is apparently the longest run of any single piece on MSDHP. Brody's Ghost is a rather grittier story than Crilley's previous works, set in what appears to be a dark urban near future (cyberpunk tone, but no evidence of cyberpunk tech), although we don't really see enough in eight pages to draw many conclusions about the world as a whole. It's clearly meant to take place in one of the nastier parts of the city, but it seems like there aren't any really nice parts. Brody himself isn't the main character of this installment, rather we mainly see him by his effects on a young woman who ends up in a rough situation (she gets enough characterization that she could well come back in a role other than victim, but Crilley's always been good at fleshing out even the bit players, so this might be the last we see of her). The very last page explains the title and veers the tone off into urban's not the ghost of a departed Brody to which the title refers, it is the ghost(s) that haunt Brody. The tone also shifts from a pretty dark and depressing one to the possibility of humor. Well, dark humor, but what do you expect from the dead? Artistically, certain elements are retained from Miki Falls (notably in the woman who gets mugged), but there's a deliberate shift from smooth and mystical to rugged and decaying in the visual tone. This is also notable as being one of the few full color works from Crilley (leaving aside cover art). Unfortunately, while MSDHP was supposed to update on December 30, it hadn't yet at the time of posting my review, so I had to go from the preview pages shown on CBR. These were the entire installment, but the page size was pretty big and I get the feeling the art was intended for digest-sized pages. So I can't really tell if the final presentation works until I can SEE the final presentation. [Later note: Pages are still kinda big on MSDHP, and their system seems to assume I have a much taller monitor than my 17" screen. This is part of why I'm not a regular reader of the site, BTW.] With only 8 pages to go on, it's hard to really evaluate the story, but it generally looks good so far. The tone shift at the end isn't jarring in a bad way, and while I can see all sorts of ways this could go badly, I trust Crilley enough to expect it won't. Recommended. Free online at Late Books: These are comics that were not listed as shipping during the week they were reviewed. Sometimes someone recommends a book to me that's already out, and I grab it over the weekend. Sometimes it's a trade paperback I ordered online rather than trusting Diamond. Sometimes the store screwed up or I was inobservant and I missed something I meant to get. USUALLY, though, it's because Diamond didn't ship what it was supposed to ship and I had to scrounge around or wait on a reorder. Logicomix: Bloomsbury (US publisher) - Written by Apostolos Doxiadis with technical assistance from Christos H. Papadimitriou, drawn by Alecos Papdatos, colored by Annie Di Donna. I got this as a Christmas present, and since there's essentially nothing out this week, I figured I'd spend more time reviewing it than I normally would. I suppose I could warn of possible spoilers, but as the plot is the life of a man who died about the time I was born, I think the statute of spoilers has passed, eh? The core story of this graphic novel is the biography of Bertrand Russell, a mathematician, philosopher and logician who once spent nearly four hundred pages on a rigorous proof that 1+1=2 (don't laugh too hard, rigorously proving things taken as obvious is a lot harder than it looks) and who knocked a big hole in the quest to create a solid foundation for mathematics while trying to make that selfsame foundation. (As an aside, I should note that my background in physics involves a lot of stuff that makes pure mathematicians cry, like assuming a rod 10m long and 1cm thick is infinitely long, or treating the infinitesimal "dx" as well-defined on its own, so it's kinda hard NOT to chuckle at some of the things that nearly drove Russell to madness.) It's wrapped in a framing story that has Russell relating his life story to an audience in the early 1940s, interspersed with explanations of the concepts he had been wrestling with at various points in his life. And THAT'S wrapped in another framing story about the creators of the comic discussing the outline with Papadimitriou and trying to figure out how to go forward (it shifts from "here's what we have" to "what next?" at page 199). Just as Russell seemed to be finding that the world is supported by turtles all the way down, this story is framed all the way out. ;) I should probably make a (hopefully) brief aside on why what Russell did was a big deal. Consider computer programming languages: wouldn't it be great to have one that would never run code that had errors in it? Sure, most languages are good at error-detection, but some always get through. Well, what Russell wanted to do was make the same sort of error-proof code for logic, so that rubbish statements like "I am lying to you right now" would be impossible to fit into the format. You wouldn't have to worry about these statements, they'd just be "ungrammatical" and rejected without evaluation. Unfortunately, the more he poked at it, the less likely it seemed. Eventually, Kurt Godel would prove that for simpler systems you could exclude "Captain Kirk Logic" entirely, but not for any logical system powerful enough to underpin mathematics (that's the Godel Incompleteness Theorem, by the way...any system complex enough to describe mathematics will inevitably run with buggy code, allowing you to properly format statements like "This statement cannot be proven" within the system). Essentially, in trying to solidify the foundations of mathematics, Bertrand Russell managed to show that it was actually a mobile home. In reading this, I decided to read the back section first, which is a short encylopedia of people and concepts important to the story, in order to brush up on my rather spotty mathematical history knowledge (thanks to Van Lente and Dunleavy, I'm a bit stronger on the philosophical history side). One thing that struck me was how many logicians' biographies had a statement like "In later years he became increasingly paranoid" near the end...and it turns out that this was to be a theme of the book, possibly the main theme. Heh. Even if you're not interested in the logic part of it, the outer layer story is a good tale of how biographies are more than just recounting the facts of a life. The original writer wants to focus on theme, character and the like, while Papadimitrou would rather do more justice to the logic itself, and treat the process that led to computers as the real protagonist. One of the afterwords explains a few of the liberties taken with real history in the name of a more interesting story (mostly taking interactions that had been via letters or other indirect means and turning them into face-to-face meetings for more dramatic results). Artistically, it's very "European Comics" in style. Granted, my experience with European comics compares unfavorably with my background in mathematical history, but I've seen enough to recognize a house style when I see one, and this is such a case. All in all, a hefty but very worthwhile read. Strongly recommended. $22.95 cover price, $18.36 with free shipping at, currently discounted to $13.97 and eligible for super-saver shipping at Amazon. New Comics: Comics and comic collections that I got this week and were actually supposed to be out this week, as far as I can tell. These reviews will generally be spoiler-free, but the occasional bit will slip in. Nada. Not that there was much coming in the first place, but Diamond decided not to bother shipping anything to my store. I was thinking of getting the Siege promo freebie, but I hadn't put it on my pull so it doesn't really count as "Gone Missing". Gone Missing: Stuff that came out some places this week and that I wanted to buy, but couldn't find for whatever reason, so people don't have to email me asking "Why didn't you review X?" (If it's neither here nor in the section above, though, feel free to ask, I might have forgotten about it!) Current list as of 12/30/09: Official Handbook of the Gold Digger Universe #22, Gold Digger v3 #105. Awards: "I Wonder If Every Failure Adds A Ghost?" Award to Brody's Ghost Part 1 (of 4) "If Bertrand Russell Had Succeeded, Kirk Would Have Been Trapped On Mudd's World" Award to Logicomix Dave Van Domelen, "Without language or thought, how can you understand ANYTHING?" "Who knows. Maybe by whistling? -KHT.- -PHT.- It's too cold for whistling, Russell." - Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, Logicomix
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