Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

Marvel 1602 is Neil Gaiman's first return to graphic novels after finishing the Sandman series and novels such as Neverwhere and American Gods. Much was expected of it and all said and done, it's an audience-splitter. I did not gain an appreciation for it until a second reading. In any case, the story and its characters play to Gaiman's strengths despite a questionable and hurried ending. Here are the questions:

1. In the Afterword, Gaiman points out that Marvel 1602 was divisive among critics. Why do you think this is?

2. With Marvel 1602 and The Eternals, Gaiman has now penned two alternate universe introductions that on their own are popular but these mythologies have mostly failed to continue past the first trade, mostly. Why?

3. Gaiman contends that he was trying not to write in the same style as Sandman in Marvel 1602. Would you say this is a detriment to the writing?

4. Gaiman wrote Marvel 1602 as a post 9/11 no guns, no bombs story. Does this knowledge make any aspects of the graphic novel more significant?

5. What Marvel characters didn't make the cut that you'd have liked to see?

6. Marvel 1602 included the X-Men, but not Wolverine, who even has time-appropriate old timey chops. Your thoughts on his exclusion?

7. Some criticize Marvel 1602's story for rationalizing and explaining the why of these characters being in an Elizabethan time period. Would have it been better unexplained?

8. Were there any 1602-ized characters you didn't like?

9. Gaiman is often criticized for his ability to wrap up his often complex interweaving storylines. Another tidbit to consider: he almost always needs two or more issues to wrap up what are usually proposed to be five-issue arcs. (This and The Eternals). Your thoughts?

10. Other one-shot graphic novels like Kingdom Come require an extensive knowledge of the universe or a Wikipedia page handy while you are reading it. Does Marvel 1602 suffer the same fate?

11. Did the inevitability of Otto Von Doom and Peter Parquagh's fates detract from their character arcs?

12. Where would you have taken Marvel 1602 had it continued? Would it be a better alternate reality a la the X-Men canon?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

Daytripper is a graphic novel by Brazilian brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. It follows Bras, an obituary writer. Each of the ten issues serves as a puzzle piece to his life and the book ends leaving the reader wondering about what the individual pieces mean in context of the world view and philosophies set forth by the authors. Here are the discussion questions:

1. Bras dies at the end of each issue only to pick up at a different spot in his life in the next. Which is the "true" reality? Does it matter?

I think Daytripper is showing various threads and places Bras' life could go should a certain event happen. The optimists in us would like to think the final reality in which Bras is an old man defying cancer treatment is the true reality.

2. What is the significance of Bras' occupation?

As an obituary writer, Bras must summarize the life achievements and admirable things that a person did, depending on the time in life that she or he died. At the end of each issue when Bras dies, our book club suggested that Bras is writing those obituaries, speaking from an omniscient perspective about his life from that issue.

3. What life philosophy does Daytripper ascribe to?

There are many, but it seems to lightly handle death, so one takeaway could be live your life as you will because death can come at any turn. Another strong theme seems to be family and making them the enjoyment of your life. Each issue centers around Bras and a family member or close friend.

4. Why does Jorge act violently when Bras finally tracks him down?

In Jorge's mind, murdering Bras was a way to be together and its what they both wanted. They died together as friends would.

5. What does the novel say about love and fidelity judging from Bras' two relationships?

There is no true love, simply the person who makes you happy at that time.

6. What is the significance of dark and light?

There are multiple interpretations, but one notable occurrence is that Bras almost always dies in darkness on the page. Light usually illustrates happiness or beauty.

7. What does Daytripper say about fatherhood and father/son relationships?

Bras ends up following in his father's footsteps, even smoking the same cigarettes eventually. Even though you may say "I'll never be like him," you share more than just DNA with your family.

8. In his famous "desert speech," Bras' father asks "How do we find something--or someone--we can no longer see, but which is right there before us? And how do we hold on to what is most precious in life?" Do Moon and Ba answer this question? How does one do this?

This speech was meant to be a bit cheesy and manipulative in the context of the graphic novel, but it is an apt question. This is simply reinforcing the idea of fate, I think. Whatever is going to happen to you may be within grasp, but it will not occur until the right stars align.

9. What are the commonalities between all of Bras' deaths? Do any stand out in particular?

Bras always dies in mundane, stupid ways. Often ways that would not usually claim a person's life. This lends creed to the idea that perhaps these are simply visions of how his life could have ended at that time rather than set in stone events.

10. In the back cover synopsis, the fact that Bras dies at the end of each issue is not mentioned once. The only mention of death is the fact that Bras writes other peoples obituaries. What does this say about the book?

As many people said, Daytripper is meant to be confusing upon first reading it. After Bras dies in the first issue, then the next, the reader catches on to the pattern. I think the authors didn't want the book to seem like it was all about death, because it is not.

11. In their author bio, Moon and Ba mention that they take their coffee the same way as Bras does, and draw a parallel between strong coffee and strong storytelling. What does that say about coffee (seriously), about their character, about them and about how they are all related?

Daytripper is set in Brazil and Latin Americans like their coffee strong and black. Moon and Ba I think modeled themselves after Ba and it would stand to reason that family is such an important part of the graphic novel seeing that the authors are twins. Coffee says about the character and the story that Moon and Ba wanted their story to have a complex, lasting flavor. There are some beverages and stories that are quick and sweet and there are stories like this one which take time to savor and enjoy.

12. Why is there no obituary or death "on screen" in the last chapter? Why does Bras refuse treatment?

Perhaps it is showing readers that this is the "true" death or the true ending, that Bras' life will not continue in an alternate universe in the next issue. Bras refuses treatment because he is happy and ready to accept death's fate.