Cross Ion Review

The Cross Ion gel pen was my absolute favorite for a long time, and it still would be if the ink cartridges were reliable. As a teacher who is constantly moving around the room, I wanted a pen I could stick in my front pocket and not notice it was there.  I also wanted a gel pen that laid down a nice, smooth, and dark line.  The Ion was perfect.  There is even a red ink cartridge that lays down a nice bright red ink.

The pen has a triangular ergonomic grip.  It feels very natural in my hand, but it is a unique feel.  A coworker used it once to sign something and didn’t like the way it felt.  He said it didn’t feel like a “real pen,” which I took to mean it wasn’t skinny and long.   Although, people have always been impressed when I pulled it out of my pocket to use it. The pens I have came with lanyards and a clip that attaches to the tip of the pen.

I was so impressed with these pens I bought several and a bulk lot of the ink cartridges in different colors.  Once my original cartridges ran out, I quickly found that the replacement cartridges were not reliable.  It is difficult to get the ink to flow in the cartridges.  I have to scribble for what seems like an eternity to get the ink to start.  Some fade in and out unexplainably.  The ink stops flowing in others when the cartridge is half full.  I thought maybe I got a bad batch, so I bought some individual replacement cartridges and had the same problems. I can’t stand it when I need a pen and it doesn’t work.

Bottom line: I love everything about the pen, but the unreliable ink cartridges ruin it for me.  Cross does not makes these any more, but they still make the replacement ink cartridges.  If anyone knows of a cartridge that will work in these, I would greatly appreciate you letting me know.

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Moby Dick – Comic Book Love 2

I recently bought a used copy of the Classics Illustrated Moby Dick drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, and I was not disappointed.  This is the same Bill Sienkiewicz of Elektra and Daredevil fame, the same Sienkiewicz I thought was the greatest comic book artist of all time when I was a teen.

Sienkiewicz brings his unique brand of surrealism and expressionism to the great American novel about dark obsession and madness.  Sienkiewicz’s art captures Ahab’s madness perfectly.  As Ahab’s obsession grows, Sienkiewicz uses a recurring image of a scratchy black and white demonic face that appears in its own box.  This, of course, captures the book’s theme perfectly. Sienkiewicz’s feverish depictions of the crew show how Ahab’s madness spreads to even the most reluctant sailors, and his depictions of the monsterish white whale draw the reader into the fear and mystery that have twisted Ahab’s mind.

If you’ve never read the orignial Moby Dick, Herman Melville intertwined chapters of action and theme-driven plot with scientific chapters on whales and the industry of whaling.  It is a long and strange, but rewarding read. This graphic novel focuses on the action-driven plot and theme to capture the essence of the original story.  All of the famous images and scenes from the original are here: the opening scenes with Ishmael and the tattooed savage, Queequeg; the appearance of Ahab on deck; the making of the coffin and Ahab’s special harpoon; the tri-works, etc.

You can find all of these samples and much more on Sienkiewicz’s site:   http://www.billsienkiewiczart.com/

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Knucklehead featuring Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka’s semi-graphic novel memoir about growing up with five brothers reminded me of reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when I was a kid. There’s lots of action and adventure to grab a young boy’s attention- wrestling, peeing on electric heaters, breaking stuff and then blaming it on someone else, telling jokes, making mortars out of M80 firecrackers, etc. It’s just good boisterous fun. I grew up around farms, and so we always dared each other to pee on electric fences, which is its own special kind of fun.

It’s not fully a graphic novel/memoir. He includes pictures of the family and various pieces of old-comic-style art to correspond with the text, but the memoir is largely text-based. The chapters are very short and each one focuses on a specific situation or memory. As the title states, these are “mostly true events.” I question the group puking incident in the station wagon, but I imagine this is the story the way the boys told it to their friends. The book is good fun and a quick nostalgic read, for me anyway. Good times, good times.

Another good read from ijustfinished.com

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The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli by Ginnetta Correli

I was pleasantly surprised by this self-published novel by Ginnetta Correli.  The back cover states that it is an “experimental novel written as a hybrid of a bizarre television script.”  I’m not sure that it succeeds as a bizarre television script, but it does come across as an engaging postmodern novel about a young girl who finds herself surrounded by madness and indifference.

Beatie Scareli’s mother is schizophrenic.  She thinks she’s Lucille Ball and Beatie’s father is Ricky Ricardo.  What seems slightly amusing at first quickly becomes a very twisted reality for Beatie.  Her mother is in and out of the asylum.  Her father is unsympathetic.  Beatie is forced to go back and forth between her mother and father once her parents divorce.  She pretends that nothing is wrong at school.  She has imaginary friends, one of which happpens to be the reader.  And Beatie handles it all the way I imagine most young people who know no other reality would handle it- nonchalantly looking for help, desperately trying to keep her childhood, and ultimately trying to escape from the situation.

Ginnetta Correli captures Beatie’s voice in short, minimalist sentences.  Beatie’s character and voice draw the reader into this novel.  The vignettes capture Beatie’s childlike perspective perfectly and frame the scenes of madness that make up her life.  The combination of these elements make this novel hard to put down.  I wanted to know what craziness could possibly happen to this girl next and how she was going to survive it all.

I only have a few complaints about the book.  Correli thanks an friend and “editor” in the end notes, but I think the book could use a professional editor to help emphasize elements of theme and character development, while at the same time eliminate some unnecessary repetitiveness.  For example, in one section of the book, Beatie mentions going to the bathroom repeatedly over several pages and several scenes.  The character even mentions that she goes to the bathroom a lot.  It doesn’t move the action or give any insight into her character besides the fact that she is presumably human and uses the bathroom.  An editor would help focus the book and accentuate the elements that make it a good read to being with.

I think this book has something to say about the human condition, which is what defines good literature.  Some scenes contain things some may find offensive, but Correli’s writing and Beatie’s character give those disturbing scenes validity and poignancy.

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Daniel X: Alien Hunter, a graphic novel by Jame Patterson (ARC)

James Patterson expands his Daniel X adventure with Daniel X: Alien Hunter, a graphic novel.  I had a student a few years ago who loved James Patterson’s young adult novels.  I even made a few accelerated reader quizzes for him, so he could get extra credit.  I respect Patterson for motivating preteen and teen boys to read.

This graphic novel is a quick read full of action and mystery.  Daniel’s parents were murdered, and he discovers that his father was an alien who hunted outlaw aliens on Earth.  Daniel finds his father’s list of outlaw aliens and is on a mission to find his parents’ killer.  Over time Daniel has practiced and honed his own alien powers.  He can use his imagination to create just about anything he wants, including friends.

Daniel is hunting #7 on the list in this installment of the story.  Patterson includes enough twists, turns, and monsters to keep young readers turning the pages.  Daniel’s foe is almost too much for him.  I imagine the most interested age group would be boys 9-12.  My seven-year-old has already asked if he can read it when I’m done.  I’m not sure he can keep up with dialogue or the vocabulary, but I’ll let him give it a shot.

I find Patterson’s writing a little heavy handed at times for a graphic novel.  For example, when it starts to rain, Daniel actually says in a thought bubble, “It’s starting to rain. I’d better get inside.” Well, we have the picture.  We can see that it’s raining.  The art appears to be computer generated.  It looks good, but its not spectacularly original.   Overall, I think its a graphic novel preteens will like.

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Into the Volcano by Don Wood (Early Reviewer Book)

I’ve been trying to think of unique ways to describe this graphic novel without using “visually stunning” and “breathtakingly beautiful,” but I can’t do it.  Every panel is a work of art.  The scenes where the lava meets the ocean are perfect.  It’s just ink on a page, but Wood captures the light, the hiss, and the heat.  The graphic novel not only stands up to artistic scrutiny, but also has a gripping story.

It’s a mystery- adventure that appeals to a younger audience, but I found myself engrossed. Brothers, Sumo and Duffy, are pulled out of class unexpectedly by their father to be shipped off to an island with a mysterious cousin they’ve never met.  The whole enterprise is shady, and when the boys meet Auntie, it gets even more suspicious.  The book twists and turns, so the reader is never quite sure who’s good and who’s bad.  The boys have to do some self-reflection.

Wood’s artistic portrayals of the characters captivated me.  I was shaken by overweight Auntie with her greenish-pink skin and broken foot.  I immediately knew something wasn’t quite right with her.  You can almost smell her.  The boys have a  pugish Hawaiian look, which made me not fall for them right away.  That’s a good thing.  Most books aimed at younger audiences try to win the reader over to the protagonist’s side with sentimentality too soon. Wood’s style and scope gives the book a cinematic depth that I have rarely seen in graphic novels.  One panel you’re in the boat with the characters, waves pounding; the next you have a bird’s eye view.  It sets a fast adventure pace that young readers will love.

Overall, I’ll be shocked if Into The Volcano doesn’t win some awards.

ijustfinished.com

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Maus- Art Spiegelman

After playing the Indiana Jones Legos game on the Wii and seeing the triology box set of the movies, my eldest son has become interested in WWII and the Nazis as bad guys.  That reminded me of the seminal graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman.  Since the Nazis portrayed the Jews as vermin to be exterminated, Spiegelman draws the Jews as mice and Nazis as cats.  This cat and mouse metaphor makes the reader comfortable with the very serious material using seemingly harmless animal comic characters, but it also creates many levels of meaning dealing with racial stereotypes, nationalistic identities, and the commonality of humanity.

Art Spiegelman

Art Spiegelman Titles

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Control – Ian Curtis

I didn’t listen to Joy Division, but I have a new appreciation for their music after seeing this bio pic about singer Ian Curtis. I’m also looking forward to seeing the new documentary about the band.

The film is great even if you have never listened to the band. It takes place in Britain in the late 70s and early 1980 as the post punk scene is burgeoning. It follows Ian and the band as they develop a sound and begin to grow a following. Throughout the movie, Ian, who is a little different than everyone else, grows more distant from those around him as the pressures of family and band increase. His lyrics are poetic and dark, and his stage presence has that unique possessed feeling you get from the great performers. He becomes epileptic, which increases his emotional distance and depression. It’s filmed in beautiful black and white, which reflects the town they lived in and wanted to escape from, as well as his depression. Speaking of the town, Ian says in the film, “Every thing’s gray.” Continue reading “Control – Ian Curtis”

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Mutant Massacre

I guess I’m feeling nostalgic again for those innocent middle-school days.  I saw some X-Men: Mutant Massacre comics on sale on Ebay and was reminded how much I loved that series.  I had a subscription to X-Factor at the time, which was a spin-off featuring the five original X-Men.  My cousin got the X-Men comics.  Once the Mutant Massacre series started we had to borrow each others books to keep up, since it was a crossover series between the two teams.  Thor, Daredevil, and some lesser known comics were also involved in a minor way. 

The series had a certain mystery noir to it, and it was released around the same time as Elektra: Assassin.  A lot of the action takes place in the underground tunnels of New York with a band of assassins killing the mutant community that lives in the tunnels.  The continuing storyline over eight issues or so, and the, what seemed at the time, more mature action and theme grabbed me.  Characters were getting killed and some favorites were gravely injured.  That’s serious stuff for an eighth-grader in the 1980s.  Remember, there was no internet and no violent video games. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutant_Massacrehttp://www.marvel.com/news/comicstories.1142.X-Men~colon~_Mutant_Massacre_Cover_Gallery

 

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