In 2011, DC relaunched their comic lines as the “New 52” after the “Flashpoint incident” when the Flash went back in time to try to alter the events of the present. This changed the storylines of other DC characters, resulting in DC discontinuing some titles, starting new ones, starting the old series over at #1, but also keeping the continuity of some of the more popular series. All in all, DC debuted 52 new titles, hence the name: the “New 52”. (A lot of other things have changed with DC since the New 52 was released, but that’s for another day and another blog post..)
Batgirl was one of these reboots. Before the Flashpoint event, Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, had been shot and paralyzed by the Joker as revenge against Batman. She goes on to be the Oracle, becoming the information access queen for the entire DC superhero community, and further joins forces with the Huntress and Dinah to become the Birds of Prey. The important thing to remember about pre-New 52 Batgirl is that she remains paralyzed.
In Batgirl: Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside, Barbara is no longer paralyzed. She has moved to Burnside, considered the trendiest neighborhood in Gotham City, to go to college and work on the algorithm she designed after she was horribly injured. Right after she moves in, her friend Dinah, aka the Black Canary, comes and lives with her after a fire destroys all of her belongings, PLUS all of Barbara’s Batgirl gear. This gives Barbara the opportunity to reinvent her costume, but also forces her to get creative to find new weapons sources.
What really hooked me into this graphic novel is that the content and the art style are made to hook into a newer generation. Barbara lives in the hip neighborhood, is going to college, has friends that are working with new computer tech, and is able to attend a wide variety of new concerts and events. Barbara and her friends are all over social media and the majority of the characters in this book are either all in college or in that young up-start community. With hashtags galore and an imposter Batgirl popping up all over various social media platforms, Barbara is forced to “re-brand” the Batgirl image in order to prove that Batgirl is not a nuisance, while also struggling to figure out where the lines are between what she should do as a super hero and what she should let the police handle. Barbara clearly struggles with a lot of the issues that young adults face when they are going away to college and the fact that she is a superhero doesn’t detract from her problems, it instead adds a necessary level of perspective and understanding that people of all ages can benefit from.
After the tragic passing of Robin Williams on August 11, 2014, I found myself going back and watching some of my favorite movies that he starred in (Can’t get enough of that genie in Aladdin and Good Will Hunting has Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, AND Robin Williams, so you can’t pass that up!). I also found myself wondering what would be his last movie, found this article detailing what they would be, and made a note to check them out. I was finally able to check one of them out! One of his last movies was Boulevard, starring Williams as Nolan Mack, a married, yet closeted, bank employee in his 60s and what happens when he decides to take a different way home one night.
Nolan has a lot on his plate. He has been working at the same bank for 25 years, has been offered a promotion to branch manager which requires a lot of prep work, and has an elderly father in the hospital. His home life seems to be idyllic, except for the tiny fact that he and his wife, Joy, sleep in separate bedrooms and seem to have entirely separate lives. On his way home after visiting his father in the hospital, Nolan finds himself driving down an unfamiliar street. Sitting at a red light, he decides to turn around. After almost hitting a young man crossing the street, Nolan offers the young man a ride to wherever he was heading, discovers he’s a prostitute, and finds himself in a hotel room with young Leo, confronting issues in his life that he had hoped to keep buried. Needing Leo in his life more than he realizes, Nolan soon finds himself deviating from the comforting and familiar bearings of his life, his work, and his marriage in order to fully become his true self.
If I sounded impressed with my review of the first volume of Nathan Edmondson’s Black Widow a few weeks ago, then I can firmly tell you that his second volume, Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web intrigued me even more. This volume shows you that Black Widow is indeed a human capable of feelings. (If that statement made you roll your eyes, let me explain.) In the first volume, and really throughout any of the Avengers movies, the Black Widow, aka Natasha, is shown as a cold, yet ruthless, killing machine, one who will do whatever it takes to complete her mission, an M.O. that makes perfect sense since she used to be a KGB assassin. Edmondson expands upon Natasha’s past in this second volume, allowing readers a glimpse behind the dark curtain that hides Natasha’s true self.
Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web tackles the bigger idea of superheroes as a whole. In both volumes, readers see Natasha as part of the Avengers and SHIELD, going on missions for them, but also going on side jobs in order to atone for her past life as a KGB assassin. Once the Black Widow is seemingly outed through media footage splashed all over the news, other superheroes, SHIELD operatives, and the regular public are forced to question the idea of superheroes operating outside the reach of the law.
Another ongoing thread in this second volume focuses on the people who come and go in Natasha’s life. In San Francisco, Natasha runs into her ex Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil, while hunting for cyber terrorists. On what she thinks is a simple mission in Prague, Natasha finds herself face to face with the Winter Soldier, who unbeknownst to her is there to stop the train from being robbed. Later, she runs into the Punisher, aka Frank Castle, a former Marine turned vigilante, while searching for information about a deadly criminal network that seems to be running communications off of the boat she is searching.
Add in a run-in with Hawkeye and this second volume reads less like a stand-alone Black Widow volume and more like a combination superhero graphic novel, which I found to be equally disappointing and riveting. I did enjoy the interactions she had with each person because it added an extra layer of depth to Natasha as a human being and highlighted important aspects of her past and her personality that would have been missed if readers were only privy to the conversations between her and her attorney, Isaiah. (Isaiah seems to be her closest friend and confidante and the doozy of a mess that Natasha finds herself in in this second volume comes back to harm Isaiah.) I just wish this volume had been more of a focus on Black Widow, more of a true stand-alone comic. I personally can’t wait for Edmondson’s new issues of Black Widow because it sounds like they will show more about her background.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth and latest installment in the Swedish Millennium series. Fans assumed that the series was finished as the series’ author, Stieg Larsson, had passed away with only writing the three books. But alas, the series has been revived by Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz. Let us rejoice!
Langercrantz does a fantastic job on many levels. He keeps the focus on Salander and her past, but develops the story into a plausible continuation for the series. Salander shines, finally living up to her full potential. She is a true heroine. More characters, unique in their own right, are introduced, and a slew of old ones are weaved in. Blomkvist is constantly on his game and devoted more than ever to helping Lisbeth. The story is fast paced and contains plenty of suspense, intrigue, computer hacking, and mathematical equations that only a handful of people in the world can understand. The best part is that it is clear that Langercrantz will not stop here. The door has been left wide open for the next Lisbeth Salander adventure.
If you are looking to start a new series, give this one a try. I have found it is more enjoyable and easier to follow the Swedish names and genius jargon when I listen to the audio books. Simon Vance is the reader of this series and really brings the story life. The first book in the series is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This book exploded and was even made into a movie in the United States in 2011 starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomvkist. Sweden has made the first three books into movies and those are all available on Netflix.
When I watch any of the Avengers movies or really any movie about a superhero, I get really excited because it gives me more of a chance to understand each of their backstories. Sadly, one of the Avengers doesn’t have her own movie and it’s the one that I have the most questions about: the Black Widow. I’ve had to exhaust other sources to learn more about this infamous former KGB assassin and why she is on a mission to atone for her past sins.
My newest Black Widow source of information is Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread by Nathan Edmonson. (This is currently part of a series, so stay tuned for my review of the second volume whenever I can get my hands on a copy!) In this first volume, readers are introduced to the mysterious Natasha, who is known to her friends and enemies alike as the Black Widow. When she’s not helping the Avengers or on missions as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha is working to make up for her past as a KGB assassin. She still utilizes the tools and tricks she learned as an assassin, but is now able to pick and choose the missions that she goes on. In this volume, she finds herself thrust up against the “Hand of God” on an undercover mission in Russia. With the mention of Chaos, she quickly finds herself entangled in a deadly plot that has wrapped its web across the globe. No one is safe from Chaos’ grasp, not her close friends or even her employers.
This first volume mainly introduces readers to the sorts of missions that Natasha goes on and the people that are closest to her. She’s still cold-hearted, but as you follow Natasha through her missions and through her interactions with the stray cat by her apartment, you realize that she is working to better herself the only way she knows how. It gives a little more depth to the character of the Black Widow that Scarlett Johansson plays in the Avengers movies. This volume gives you enough information about present day Natasha to understand how she operates and gives you very little information about her past, just enough to leave you curious and hopeful that the subsequent volumes will explore more about her past.
In Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, Edmondson has written an introduction into the Black Widow that allows for the truly artistic work of artist Phil Noto to shine. Throughout this graphic novel, Noto varies the colors used and the way he draws to highlight different scenes and the many different places where Natasha travels. The mysterious nature of Natasha as the Black Widow is elevated by the dark colors and stylized way of drawing the Noto employs. Edmondson’s words serve to add another layer of depth to Natasha’s character, since she’s primarily alone and spends a lot of time thinking out her next actions in her head.
Restitution claims resulting in the Nazi seizure of artwork, jewelry, money, furniture, etc., are upwards of billions of dollars with successful returning of stolen materials becoming more of the exception than the norm. Settlement agreements or restitution of any kind was opposed by many governments and sometimes even neglected until after the Cold War when the extent of both the worth and amount of objects seized became more widely known. The signing of the Washington Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art in 1998 by over forty countries set into motion the identification of confiscated art pieces and the subsequent restitution of the art pieces to the pre-war owners.
Having said this, I found Woman in Gold to be a dynamic and intriguing portrayal of an actual art restitution claim that began in the late 1990s. This movie stars Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, a Jewish woman who was forced to flee Vienna during World War II and who left with nothing more than the clothes on her back. Sixty years later, she began the arduous journey to get back her own family possessions that the Nazis seized, even while they were still living in their apartment in Vienna. Among these possessions, and arguably the one that created the most scandal in Austria, was the painting by Gustav Klimt called “Adele Bloch-Bauer I” (aka “Woman in Gold”) that is a painting done of Maria Altmann’s aunt Adele. The Austrian government was not keen, to say the least, to just hand over the painting to Miss Altmann as it had become part of Austria’s heritage, even though it had been stolen from their family and not gifted as the government believes.
Ryan Reynolds plays as Maria Altmann’s attorney, Randy Schoenberg, a man who at first writes Altmann off and then becomes increasingly involved in this case, risking his job and family, and ultimately taking her case all the way to the Supreme Court. This movie is a fascinating look into the tangled and confusing web of restitution claims, governmental politics, and legal processes. It also perfectly highlights how the actual process of reclaiming something that was illegally taken from you can be incredibly difficult. Woman In Gold is only one story of successful art restitution, but with the release of this movie, the public is made more aware of the atrocities committed and objects stolen by the Nazis and just how complicated it is to get back something that is rightfully yours!
Interested in learning more about art restitution? Check out the following items below!
I have a guilty secret to share. Sometimes I go weeks without paying attention to the news, only checking the surface for sports scores or when a major event happens that is all over social media. As a result, when I’m busy or stressed, I can have no idea what is happening in the world outside my personal bubble. My news-watching habit was pointed out to me when I checked out the movie, Citizenfour, to watch one day.
The person on the cover didn’t look familiar, but the plot sounded promising: a behind-the-scenes look into privacy invasions by the NSA. I started watching and wondered continuously who this “Citizenfour” character was, a person conversing with director Laura Poitras and later with journalist Glenn Greenwald through incredibly encrypted and secure channels, one who was telling them that the secrets they had to share would blow the lid off of a huge governmental conspiracy.
Even when Poitras and Greendwald flew to Hong Kong to meet Citizenfour at the hotel room where he had been camping out, I still had no idea who he was, but the topic was fascinating. Hundreds upon thousands of classified documents that he had taken from his contracting job with the NSA that highlighted evidence of mass numbers of both indiscriminate and illegal privacy invasions that the NSA had perpetuated over many years. That tickled my brain. Things were starting to sound familiar. I then looked closer at the face on the screen. Edward Snowden! That’s what this was about.
Citizenfour follows Snowden’s decision to hand over thousands of classified documents that he gathered while being on loan to the NSA about many different secret programs and projects that the NSA and other governmental organizations had put together, as well as some information about the programs that other countries were a part of, all under the guise of surveillance after the tragedies of September 11th. What I found to be interesting about this documentary was that Snowden wanted the focus to be on the information contained within the classified documents and less on the person that was leaking them to the press, himself. The interactions between Snowden, Poitras, and the journalists that he came in contact with while in Hong Kong highlight the varying degrees of secrecy, intelligence gathering, and electronic surveillance that Snowden was seeking to expose to the world. Unplugging the hotel phone, hiding under a sheet to type in his password, talking through notes passed back and forth may seem to a passing person like signs of paranoia, but as Snowden highlights throughout this documentary, the government is capable of tapping into anything and everything, whether we choose to believe it or not.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out the materials below!
This year was a big year for fans of the Back to the Future movie trilogy as we finally catch up with the future timeline in the films. Buzz has been all over the internet with folks comparing the movie’s predictions of life in 2015 with what has really happened. For the full list of movie comparisons versus reality, click here.
What seemed to get the most attention was predictions the movie made about the 2015 baseball season. According to Back to the Future II, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series in a sweep over Miami on October 21, 2015. Fast forward to the real 2015. With the start of the baseball pre-season, fans of both the movie and team began posting on Facebook that the Cubs were going to win the World Series this year. Considering the Cubs have not played in the World Series since 1945, let alone won since 1908, this seemed like more than a long shot. But…what if? As the season went forward and the Cubs were looking better and better, more and more started to believe. When they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, even I started to believe (just for a tiny second). In the end, they couldn’t quite do it, but there was definitely some kind of magic in the city of Chicago during the 2015 season.
The Back to the Future franchise was ready for what they knew would be a great year to revive the 80’s trilogy. A Back to the Future Anniversary Trilogy DVD set was released earlier this year and the entire Back to the Future cartoon series. Let me just say, I loved that show! Also out is a Back to the Future PS4 video game.
Hollywood has followed up on this hype by releasing a brand new documentary about the making of the movie trilogy. Cast, crew and fans are featured in this 30th anniversary tribute. Back in Time stars Steven Spielberg, Micheal J. Fox, and Lea Thompson. For those of you that love the franchise, this is a must see. Back in Time along with the other anniversary items are available at the library.
Featured new additions to DPL’s Science Fiction and Fantasy collections! Click on the title to place a hold. For more new books, visit our Upcoming Releases page. As always, if there’s a title you would like to read, please send us a purchase suggestion.
||Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed – Twilight Company (men and women, human and nonhuman–of the Sixty-First Mobile Infantry) gives the Rebel Alliance’s hardest-fighting warriors a crucial chance to turn retreat into resurgence as they strike at the ultimate target: the very heart of the Empire’s military machine.
|Planetfall by Emma Newman – Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi’s vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown. More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony’s 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi. The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart.
|Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal – Celebrated as the author of five acclaimed historical fantasy novels in the Glamourist series, Mary Robinette Kowal is also well-known as an award-winning author of short science fiction and fantasy. Her stories encompass a wide range of themes, a covey of indelible characters, and settings that span from Earth’s past to its near and far futures as well as even farther futures beyond. Alternative history, fairy tales, adventure, fables, science fiction (both hard and soft), fantasy (both epic and cozy)-nothing is beyond the reach of her unique talent.
||Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen – Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She’s a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don’t call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand. And just like that, Nettie can see. But her newfound sight is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn’t understand what’s under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding — at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin… if the monsters along the way don’t kill her first.
||A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe – It is perhaps a hundred years in the future, our civilization is gone, and another is in place in North America, but it retains many familiar things and structures. Although the population is now small, there is advanced technology, there are robots, and there are clones. E. A. Smithe is a borrowed person. He is a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library, and his personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. A wealthy patron, Colette Coldbrook, takes him from the library because he is the surviving personality of the author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was in the possession of her murdered father, and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. It is lost, and Colette is afraid of the police. She borrows Smithe to help her find the book and to find out what the secret is. And then the plot gets complicated.
|If, Then by Matthew De Abaitua – In IF, the people of a small English town cling on after an economic collapse under the protection of the Process. But sometimes people must be evicted from the town. That’s the job of James, the bailiff. While on patrol, James discovers the replica of a soldier from the First World War wandering the South Downs. This strange meeting begins a new cycle of evictions in the town, while out on the rolling downland, the Process is methodically growing the soldiers and building the weapons required to relive a long-lost battle. In THEN, it is August 1915, at the Battle of Suvla Bay in the Dardanelles campaign. Compared to the thousands of allied soldiers landing on this foreign beach, the men of the 32nd Field Ambulance are misfits and cranks of every stripe: a Quaker pacifist, a freethinking padre, a meteorologist, and the private (once a bailiff) known simply as James. One night they stumble across an ancient necropolis, disturbed by an exploding shell. What they discover within this ancient site will make them question the reality of the war and shake their understanding of what it means to be human…
||Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman – Inadvertently trained by the Devil to see the clues in and manipulations of human desire, sixteen-year-old Izzy is raised to be his left hand and travel circuit through his territory west of the Mississippi.
How far would you be willing to go to keep your family together? To get your dream house? To provide a life for your children that you never had? Would you hunt for your dream job? Would you steal? Would you jeopardize your own future to make sure your children have whatever they want? All of these are questions that Sophie Potter has to deal with in Sonya Cobb’s new novel, The Objects of Her Affection.
In The Objects of Her Affection, Sophie finds herself home alone with two young children, wanting to give them the house and the childhood that she never had growing up. She bounced from apartment to apartment as a child, moving when her mother found new work. After her father figure died, her mother skipped town, leaving Sophie to fend for herself.
With her husband ensconced and buried within his work as a museum curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and with her own career at a standstill after the birth of their two children, Sophie finds herself floundering for support and yet in charge of all the bills and the family’s well-being. After she finds her dream house and convinces her husband of its potential worth, he leaves her in charge of figuring out the whole mortgage and loan business. After signing up for what she believes to be the best offer, Sophie soon realizes that that deal was too good to be true after notices and bills keep showing up at her door, she actually can’t afford the mortgage payment each month, and the business can’t track down who actually owns her loan.
Frustrated, she visits her husband at work to tell him about the mess she’s in and accidentally slips a piece of museum property in her purse. Not wanting to get him into trouble, she decides to sell the piece. Shocked at the amount of money she gets, Sophie sees that she can afford to keep up on all of the bills using that money without having to tell her husband about the mess she has put them in. Sneaking more objects out of her husband’s office gives her a thrill and a sense of satisfaction that she has been missing since the birth of her children, but once the museum realizes pieces are missing and the FBI comes to interview everyone, Sophie is forced to make a choice between telling the truth and keeping her dream afloat by stealing yet another museum piece. The Objects of Her Affection gives readers an up-close look at the lengths people will go through to keep their families together, just how dangerous keeping secrets can be, and how giving up is never an option.