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Links to the reviews I posted during the recent LJ outage. I am not reposting, but anonymous and open ID commenting are open over there (though I would appreciate some kind of name signed to anonymous comments so as to be able to maintain continuity of conversation).

Day 325: Trilogy, H.D.. Poetry, unfairly overlooked lesbian author.

Day 326: Paying For It, Chester Brown. Graphic novel. Interesting but highly problematic memoir about prostitution from the perspective of a customer.

Day 327: Faerie Winter, Janni Lee Simner. Good YA fantasy by a friend of mine.

Day 328: The Invention of Morel, Adolfo Bioy Casares. Unfairly obscure Argentinian science fiction indirectly responsible for the movie Last Year at Marienbad.

Day 329: Earth X, Alex Ross and Jim Krueger. Graphic novel. Dark Marvel Comics AU with a very interesting take on Captain America.

Day 330: Dragonbreath: No Such Thing As Ghosts, Ursula Vernon. Fifth in Vernon's fun series of illustrated kids' books; not a strong entry.

And the two since made it through crossposting.
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Review of the book I read on Sunday, July 24th.

This is one of those alternate universes that Marvel Comics comes out with every so often, in which all of the characters from their various titles come together in things that totally did not happen in the main continuity. Despite the fact that Marvel now appears to do this every other Wednesday and uses it as an excuse to try to reboot their continuities in ways that are simply terrible ideas, the first couple of times they did this it was actually pretty brilliant. The Age of Apocalypse AU, for instance, a completely badass and frightening run of issues in which one of Marvel's nastiest villains takes over the world, turns it into something incredibly dystopian, and then causes his universe to eat the other ones in the multiverse, is twisted and beautiful and spectacular.

Twisted, beautiful, and spectacular is also how I would describe Earth X, which is if anything even darker. The premise is very simple: every single person on Earth has simultaneously developed superpowers which are just as impressive as those of superheroes. The result is the downfall of civilization and complete and utter chaos.

If you do not have a reasonable familiarity with Marvel personalities-- not necessarily the plots, but, you know, who the Fantastic Four are and what their powers are and who Captain America is and so on-- this is probably going to make no sense to you at all. If you have a passing familiarity with Marvel, the book does go out of the way to try to explain itself to you. I suspect that the more of a Marvel geek you are the more impressive it becomes. At any rate, this is a world in which Reed Richards is the new Doctor Doom, in which the Green Goblin is the President of the United States and nobody particularly cares, and in which Iron Man is a bitter recluse surrounded by infinite layers of quarantine machines designed to keep him safe from whatever has given everyone else their powers.

It is also the world with the best Captain America ever. He's old here, out of his time and knowing it, and torn apart by the essential contradiction that it is in some ways not possible for him to be a representative of the American dream, because that dream is on many levels about the triumph of the individual, but Captain America was designed, created, and upheld by the collective and not by his own efforts. This is the world in which the narrative points out that Captain America is the Aryan ideal, the blond, blue-eyed superpowered gentleman, whom the U.S. therefore sent to fight Hitler. There's a kid in this universe who has mind-control powers, who can simply take over anyone he sees, and he's a completely amoral, vicious, and stupid teenager. He takes the name the Crimson Skull because it sounds cool, unaware that that's the name of Captain America's Nazi nemesis, unaware even of who Hitler was. And he won't mind-control Captain America, because he finds it funnier not to.

This leads to a bravura sequence in which the kid says to Captain America to stop fighting him, because he's God, and Captain America says, as a representative of the United States, "Then I'm Nietzsche." It was one of the most interestingly layered moments I've ever seen in a superhero comic.

The rest of the plot is somewhat more muddled and has a lot of unnecessarily complex layers, but if you like dystopian riffs on superhero stuff that is not critiqued this brutally very often, this is for you. I am told it has two sequels, but that they become even more insanely complex and not as good. This, stand-alone, is enough for me.


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