Category: Things To Read

The Vision and a Series of Unfortunate Events

Hope you are all enjoying the summer and staying cool. In previous posts, we have discussed some podcasts and books that we have been into lately. My current summertime media consumption has included reading The Vision and watching Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

So why am I talking about these two things together? Besides being the things I have most recently read/watched, they both employ a style of narrative storytelling that warns you what’s coming. Rather than dampening the story, these breadcrumbs lead you through the drama and guide you into darker elements without even coming close to diminishing the gut punch or (especially in the case of The Vision) some truly difficult emotional moments. The story remains compelling despite what could be termed as spoilers built right in.

Of the two, A Series of Unfortunate Events (SoUE) is clearly the lighter fare, geared for ages…well I would say 8 and up, but you know your kid. These stories were first a book series and then a Netflix series. The story follows the Baudelaire children as they are orphaned and then repeatedly terrorized by Count Olaf, a villain obsessed with getting his hands on the fortune the oldest daughter will inherit when she is of age. While I stopped reading the books after about 3 (there are 13 in the series), the Netflix series manages to stave off some of the repetition with a very strong cast and interesting stylized visuals. The most fun part of the series is Patrick Warburton who plays author and narrator Lemony Snicket. Snicket, with a dry gravitas that Warburton is just perfect for, tells you right off the bat what you are in for. And what you’re in for is horrible people treating some innocent kids horribly. Anyone around them is also pulled into the horribleness -horribleness that is largely orchestrated by Count Olaf. The narration acts as a teaser, breaking the fourth wall to remind viewers of the drama they are watching play out, reminding them that they are watching a show that is literally telling you it’s a series of unfortunate events. And yet, you still think and hope things might go the Baudelaires’ way.  But don’t hope, because they don’t. But still, I found myself moaning and groaning and hoping maybe, just this time, things would be okay, even as Patrick Warburton’s dulcet tones continuously told me they wouldn’t.

The Vision is a 12-issue comic series by Tom King. It’s available in two trades, so do yourself a favor and just buy them both because if you start this series, you are going to want to finish it.  

This story uses a similar narrative device to the one used in A Series of Unfortunate Events, SoUE is largely comical in its misery, The Vision is too real. An unseen narrator tells us that Vision decided to create a family. They move to a suburban neighborhood in the Washington DC area and try to fit in. This never happens. Instead, the Visions exist in a limbo, not quite human, not quite synthezoid. Sometimes they go through the motions, acting as they think humans should. Other times they are perhaps too human, unwittingly falling into the perils of violence, mania, and love. The villain in this story is largely unseen and debatable. Is it life? Ultron? Vision himself? Despite this story not having a mustache-twirling antagonist like SoUE, you know in the first few pages that this experiment in family won’t end well. Over 12 issues, we watch the pieces fall and shatter on the floor. Knowing this is coming doesn’t make this story any less compelling. Instead, it’s a study of an unraveling of a dream – its own series of unfortunate events, and we are never lead to believe it will be anything but that.

So, a similar narrative device, but 2 different stories in tone and weight. I would recommend them both but maybe have some tissues available when you read The Vision.

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Summer Reading 2018 – Mixing It Up

For several years I’ve written a summer reading post around the Fourth of July. It’s the perfect time – Memorial Day may be the unofficial start to the summer season, but the Fourth is the heart of it. This summer in New England has been particularly aggressive – a brutal heat wave that’s started earlier and lasted longer than we usually see around here. And so I should probably offer you some light, breezy reads that you can bring to beach and promptly forget about. But I’m nothing if not a contrarian, so instead I’m going to offer two pieces of fiction to make you think, and one cookbook to lighten the mood and because I’m personally going to use it a lot this summer with my new ice cream maker.
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Mystery and Magic: Two More Great All-Ages Reads

It can be hard for parents to navigate the shelves at a comic shop, particularly if they haven’t read a lot of comics themselves. The misconception that all comics are for kids is waning, but hasn’t totally been extinguished yet. Luckily, most shops have a section devoted to all-ages books, and staff trained to make recommendations. Here are a couple that I’ve enjoyed, if you need to spark some ideas.
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Comics Characters You Should Get To Know: Thanos

This post will feature spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War largely in the form of a character study, but also in the form of point of the Infinity Saga story in the comics.

Maybe you have seen Avengers: Infinity War by now, or maybe you haven’t. But surely you have at least heard of Thanos, the Mad Titan by now. When The Goog and I first started dating now 16 years ago, he asked me if I was familiar with the Infinity Saga the way one of those kids with the suits and backpacks (you know the ones) might ask if you have heard about the Good Word. We have been an Infinity Saga household ever since. A big part of what makes this massive event/cross-over story so compelling is not just the coming together of so many of the Marvel Universe’s heroes (and anti-heroes), but that Thanos, as the catalyst, is such a compelling and complicated villain. Continue reading

Movies and Books to Look Forward to in 2018

The new year has arrived, bringing with it the usual vows of self-improvement, opportunity for fresh starts, and hope that the coming twelve months will be better than the previous. It’s a traditional time for optimism.

Unfortunately, New Year’s Day 2018 doesn’t find me full of anticipation for the new year. Aside from the bigger problems of the world that haven’t disappeared with the 2017 calendars, my husband and I are both sick. We’re also still recovering from the emotional drain of the holidays. And temperatures aren’t venturing above 30 degrees. Don’t get me wrong; my life is good and I’m still grateful for what I do have.

Still, it can be tough to find enthusiasm for the new year when I’m more inclined to curl up in a blanket with my dogs to stay warm. However, I’d like to feel that sense of a fresh start and anticipating the new. So I am focusing on something I am definitely looking forward to in 2018. I’ve asked the other Ladies what they are looking forward to as well so click through to find out what we can’t wait for. Continue reading

The Red Menace’s Top Five Books of 2017

By all accounts, 2017 has been a difficult year, one plagued by natural disasters, tragedy, and a polarizing political climate. Yet, in spite of it all, or in some cases even because of it, we’ve been privy to some incredible stories this year – books that challenge, enlighten, inform and inspire. Here are a few of my favorites – some I’ve reviewed here before, some I haven’t. All of them are written by women.
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Smalerie Reads Christmas Comics: The Return

While it’s very possible that I’m the only one getting a kick out of these seasonal comic creations, this year I decided to revisit the ghosts of blog posts past and share some more holiday themed comics with you all.

 

The Last Christmas – Story by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, Art by Rick Remender

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Image: Image Comics

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Henchgirl Review

Back in July, Smalerie shared a recipe for a hamburger. What it lacked in deliciousness it made up for in creativity and in its physical resemblance to the product that inspired it – the Cthulhu burger in Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl. At the time, she mentioned she wasn’t going to review the book; the focus of the post was the horrifying delicacy she’d created. Since then, we’ve discussed the book at Comicazi Book Club, and hosted Kristen as one of our guests of honor at LadiesCon.

Kristen at LadiesCon 2017.

So it seems like a good time to review the book and let you know that if you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon, you should.

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3 Manga Titles The Red Menace Recommends

In my last post, I mentioned that there were some manga I was excited to share with you all. Since nothing else took my attention this time around, let’s talk about them.

I should note that I haven’t yet read a lot of manga – I really enjoyed Ranma 1/2 when I was just getting into comics, but that was nearly 25 years ago, when the selection of good translations in America weren’t as plentiful as they are now. Additionally, there are SO many manga, in every genre you can imagine. Separating the wheat from the chaff, or even just what stories might be interesting to you in particular, can be a daunting task. Luckily, there are folks out there who can help. Comicazi has a manga book club – I learned about one of these titles from their list. Another I learned about from my pal Morgana, who is the manga maven at Comicopia, a store with a great selection of manga. The last was given to me by my husband, who thought it just looked up my alley. So here are my three picks – don’t be afraid to ask your local shop for other suggestions!
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Food and Fandom: Henchgirl’s Cthulu Burger

We are less than 2 months away from LadiesCon and things are getting crazy. Crazy in the best ways possible, but still quite a lot of twists, turns, and surprises. It’s during these times that we need to make sure we’re taking the opportunity to take a deep breath, brush up on your R’lyehian, and praise the Elder Gods.

If you haven’t read Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl, you should really do one of the following: a) buy it now so you have a copy for Kristen to sign at LadiesCon or b) buy it at LadiesCon and so you have a copy for Kristen to sign. Ok ok, I know I’m really driving the point a bit hard here, but there’s a reason we reached out to Kristen as a guest.

Without turning this post into a review, I will tell you this much. Henchgirl is such a charming and funny story. It’s filled with such great visual gags and puns that when I found myself faced with these panels…I knew immediately what I had to do.

 

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Image: Dark Horse Press

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Image: Dark Horse Press

 

Yes, I needed my very own Cthulu Burger!

Normally when I do these Food and Fandom posts, I like to post a recipe. I’m not going to do that this time for a few reasons. The main reason is that there are times when (due to the either the complications of your project or the limits of your own culinary skills) you know that you’re going to have to choose between something that tastes great but is visually plain or something that looks amazing but will NEVER WANT TO EAT AGAIN.  I chose and well, um…you’ll see.

When making a burger based on Cthulu, octopus was the most obvious choice. I was able to find frozen cleaned octopus in my regular supermarket quite easily, as well as a recipe that would allow me to cook it in my sous vide. I had never cooked octopus before and using such a controlled temperature was a pretty surefire way to ensure that the octopus would be soft and tender rather than horrible and chewy.

So I started with something that looked like this:

 

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I may or may not have performed a puppet show for my dog with these.

Did some stuff to it:

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Dead Cthulu waits dreaming.

 

And hours later, I found myself with this:

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Tentacles like butta…

The recipe also informed me that I should clean, then either grill or fry up the octopus to get the legs and tentacles nice and crispy before serving. So I did that too.

Next, I laid out my ingredients on my sacrificial altar/cutting board and got to work assembling what might very well be my most horrifying creation yet.

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Photo contains: garlic mayo, romaine lettuce, toasted brioche bun, vine-ripened tomatoes, octopus, and the last shreds of my sanity

BEHOLD AND TREMBLE WITH FEAR YOU FOOLS! *warning: prolonged exposure to this slideshow may result in madness

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I’m really proud of how I was able to get his worshipers to bleed from the eyes just right!

I delayed as long as I could taking these pictures. It wasn’t because I didn’t think I would like octopus. I’ve had it before and liked it a lot. It was the idea of eating it with bread and the other burger fixings that made me start to back away towards the door.

I mean, does this cross section look appetizing to you?

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It kinda looks like a Hell Mouth.

Since I wasn’t about to go at this alone, The Boy and I each took a half, bit in, and well…

Do I get points for accuracy if it tastes like it’s been asleep under a lost city in the Pacific ocean for thousands of years?

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that bad. But dang, it tasted fishy. And the soft octopus with even softer bread was not something I found enjoyable in any way. No, it was not good. Nope. Nope. Nope.

In the case that you’re wondering what went wrong, I chatted with Tiny Doom and she believes it was a problem with the octopus recipe that I used. My recipe said that marinating the octopus before cooking was optional, so I skipped that step to save myself a little time. Tiny Doom has cooked octopus with great success but has always let it braise in red wine first. Perhaps that’s the key to removing the fishy taste? Maybe my frozen octopus wasn’t all that great? I’ll probably give cooking octopus a shot again, but will use a very different recipe.

Still, Lord Cthulu makes quite the dashing figure as a burger.