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Advance Book Review: For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves

For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves

Larissa Zageris and Kitty Curran’s new illustrated book of essays/biography/fan fiction For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves doesn’t come out until October, but my reading of it timed perfectly with the announcement of the fourth Matrix film and the end of filming Bill and Ted Face the Music. Keanu Reeves is the Internet’s boyfriend, has three film franchises (Matrix, Bill and Ted, John Wick), and resisted Disney/Marvel’s siren call. So, it’s the perfect time to look back at his career, see why he was loved and derided, and maybe even why he is more aspirational than any self-help guru.

Zageris and Curran structure For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves like a series of essays looking at different aspects of Keanu Reeves’ career with fun extras like trivia and a quiz about which character named “John” played by Reeves you are (I was John Constantine.). There’s also a spaghetti Western-style fan fiction about what he was up to in the two year gap between Devil’s Advocate (1997) and The Matrix (1999), and best of all, a pitch for a romantic comedy/musical spinoff of John Wick set in Paris and co-starring Charlize Theron and Winona Ryder.

The five essays cover a range of topics from how Reeves’ vulnerable approach to acting clashed with some critics and endeared fans, his identity as Asian-American/Canadian man, his hard-working approach to his acting craft, his collaborations with both actors and business partners, and finally, one about his roles that fall on the “evil” side of the spectrum. A repeated theme is how Reeves’ main goal as an actor is to create a pocket reality for audiences to project themselves on them. He does this by working tirelessly at different skills his characters have (The eight months of kung fu training for The Matrix, surfing dangerous areas in Kauai for Point Break.) and also actively listening to his scene partners and not having his performance overwhelm theirs. Zageris and Curran state that this quality is why actresses like Sandra Bullock and Winona Ryder want to work with him multiple times, and Bullock saying his kindness to her and rapport in Speed helped ease her into the world of show business.

However, what makes For Your Consideration go beyond just a blow by blow recap/analysis of Keanu Reeves’ 30+ year career is Larissa Zageris and Kitty Curran using him as a vehicle to explore American society’s changing ideals of masculinity, the role of the Internet and celebrity, and how Reeves may have even paved the way for Asian-American representation in pop culture though he mainly plays white-passing roles. They discuss about how Reeves’ body is filmed like a female actor in some of his movies, and the similarities of how critics talk about his acting like assuming just because he played an airhead slacker in the Bill and Ted films that he was one and focusing on his looks and not his ability. As far as action movies, Zageris and Curran write about how Reeves’ earnest approach and emotional openness in films like Point Break and Speed set him apart from the machismo and smartassery of actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.

At times, For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves veers from being a work of cultural and film criticism with jokes to being almost a straight-up, self-help book with Keanu Reeves being held up as an example of how we should be. This goes beyond his characters’ mantras of “Be excellent” and Internet memes of calling people breathtaking and warm, vulnerable stories about how he uses Shakespeare monologues to stay calm and would rather read a book than be a celebrity.

Some of the self-help bits pop up in the chapter about collaboration that discusses how Reeves acts as if he’s in a supporting role even he is a leading man and praises his co-stars in interviews instead of talking about himself. The chapter also shows that he isn’t afraid to pursue his passions like bookmaking and motorcycle design and that his approach to these businesses mirrors his work with Chad Stahelski, who went from being his stunt double on The Matrix to directing him in all three John Wick films. There is a quote about Reeves’ dedication to learning fight choreography, gunplay, etc so that Stahelski has a full range of creative choices instead of cutting around him. (Basically, he was throwing shade on the Taken movies.)

Even if there isn’t enough space to go into detail of each and every Keanu Reeves role, Larissa Zageris and Kitty Curran perform an excellent close reading of Keanu Reeves the actor and human being with funny spot illustrations like a “human evolution” chart from Theodore Logan to John Wick, bearded badass. It isn’t a total hagiography with some critiques of Reeves’ accent work and deadpan descriptions of some of his “weirder” film choices like Bad Batch and Knock Knock, which I want to track down. However, it’s an appreciation of actor, who wants to take audiences on heroic (or anti-heroic) journeys into the world with him not just as a guide, but as someone they can identify with and walk out of the theater playing air guitar, doing kung fu, killing a man with a pencil, or maybe just hugging one’s beloved pooch a little tighter.

Overall Rating: 8.0

Quirk Books provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

A New Humble Bundle 100% Supports the ACLU to Get Out the Vote

Support the ACLU with a limited-time collection of ebooks from Humble Bundle, featuring the exclusive debut of the anthology Resist! All proceeds to be donated to the ACLU. With the US midterm elections just around the corner, Humble Bundle has just launched a fun and informative selection of curated titles in support of a more perfect union. The Humble Charity Book Bundle: Get the Vote Out 100% supporting the ACLU focuses on civics, volunteerism, and positive resistance – with one cookbook, an angry bear, Cory Doctorow, and a few dystopian novels and comics in the mix too.

Participating publishers coming together for this project include DC Comics, IDW, Image Comics, Lonely Planet, Microcosm Publishing, No Starch Press, Oni Press, Quirk, Skyhorse, and Tachyon.

Working in conjunction with the ACLU and writer Gary Whitta (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Book of Eli), this promotion will be the first to offer the new science fiction anthology, Resist: Tales From a Future Worth Fighting Against, featuring some of today’s most celebrated SF writers.

100% of all proceeds from this promotion will be donated to the ACLU. For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, they take up the toughest civil liberties fights.

The Humble Charity Book Bundle: Get the Vote Out 100% supporting the ACLU will run from October 22 through November 5 at 11 a.m. Pacific time.

Customers can pay just $1 or more for:

  • Make A Difference: The Ultimate Volunteer Handbook
  • The Lessons of Ubuntu: How an African Philosophy Can Inspire Racial Healing in America
  • American Presidents
  • The Little Black Book of Political Wisdom
  • The Millennial’s Guide to Changing the World
  • The U.S. Constitution and Related Documents
  • Full Bleed Vol 2 (Exclusive Excerpt)
  • Prez

Customers who pay $8 or more will also get:

  • Maker’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
  • Sh*t Politicians Say
  • Bicycle/Race: Transportation, Culture, & Resistance
  • Feed the Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting Involved
  • The U.S. Constitution and Related Documents
  • Firebrands: Portraits from the Americas
  • Girls Resist!
  • Teenage Rebels: Stories of Successful High School Activists From the Little Rock 9 to the Class of Tomorrow
  • Bitch Planet

Those who pay $15 or more will receive:

  • In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
  • We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce
  • Letter 44
  • A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns
  • The Little Book of Restorative Justice
  • Stable Strategies and Others
  • Pirate Utopia
  • What You Should Know About Politics . . . But Don’t
  • Paddle Against the Flow
  • Stuff Every American Should Know
  • Volunteer: A Traveler’s Guide To Making A Difference Around the World

Those who pay $18 or more will receive the Humble exclusive debut of Resist!: Tales From a Future Worth Fighting Against, edited by Gary Whitta, Christie Yant, and Hugh Howey.

This hot-off-the-digital-press anthology will featured short works from renowned writers including:

Charles Yu Beth Revis
Charlie Jane Anders David Wellington
Hugh Howey Kieron Gillen
John Scalzi Desirina Boskovich
Sarah Kuhn Jason Arnopp
Laura Hudson Kevin Hearne
Leigh Alexander Jake Kerr
Daniel H. Wilson Madeleine Roux
Saladin Ahmed Fran Wilde
C. Robert Cargill Delilah S. Dawson
Chet Williamson Elizabeth Bear

The total MSRP for this entire collection, including Resist! and all 30 books is $365.

Advance Book Review: Fred Van Lente’s The Con Artist is a Nerd Noir Page Turner

In his second novel, Fred Van Lente, who is known for his comic books like Action Philosophers, Marvel’s The Incredible Hercules, and Valiant’s Archer and Armstrong  spices up the murder mystery genre by setting it at San Diego Comic Con where super fans, Hollywood types, and yes, even some comic book creators rub shoulders in a four celebration dedicated to things that they make Funko Pops of. His protagonist is Mike, a comic book artist known for his work on popular Atlas Comics (A stand-in for Marvel) character Mister Mystery and his indie pro wrestling book Gut Check, which has given him a decent level of fame. Mike is divorced and either lives out of his car or at the hotels at the various comic convention he attends and is only at SDCC to give Ben K, his long time mentor, a lifetime achievement award and to make sure his Artist’s Alley table isn’t given away in the future.

Unfortunately, Ben passes away as soon as Mike gets to San Diego. And, then, Van Lente kicks the actual murder mystery plot into high gear when Atlas editor, Mike’s arch nemesis, and his ex-wife’s boyfriend Danny Lieber turns up dead the night they got into a bar fight and was thrown out of the hotel bar. Mike’s weekend of drinking, drawing commissions, and self-loathing is transformed into police interrogations, basically becoming a private eye, and even more insane things as the novel continues.

The Con Artist is marketed as an illustrated novel, but Tom Fowler‘s illustrations aren’t just fanservice for the comic book crowd and actually connect to the events of the story. Something that might have seemed like a throwaway bit of surrealism, like “Eastboro Baptist Church” protesters juxtaposed with obsessive anime otakus trying to break a Guinness world record, ends up helping Mike piece together bits of the mystery. Early, in the book, Mike talks about how he likes making art, even sketches for fans because it has a “purging” effect for him, and several times, he mentions how much the act of creation means to him even though he hasn’t drawn a comic in a long time. And Mike’s ability to use comic books and what Scott McCloud calls “closure” (The concept is Ben K’s in the books.) to help put together pieces of this labyrinthine mystery, involving both the creative and corporate side of the comic book industry as well as Mike’s friends and foes.

The early scenes at parties or on the convention floor might seem like wheel turning or a chance for Van Lente to get out some great one-liners about the comics industry, geek culture, or conventions, but they establish the relationship that Mike has with a decent sized cast of characters from his BFF Dirtbag, who was Ben K’s assistant and now is volunteering at a The Walking Dead meets Orange is the New Block TV show attraction and his table buddy and successor on Mister Mystery Katie Poole to his number one fangirl Violet and my personal favorite character, Sebastian Mod, who is a pitch perfect combo parody of Mark Millar and Grant Morrison with Alan Moore’s religious beliefs thrown in for good measure.

The Con Artist definitely gets dark and violent from the get go, but Fred Van Lente balance things out with a wicked sense of humor and simultaneously satirizing and celebrating comic books and geek culture. For example, it might be weird that copyright friendly named Kevin Durant’s super rich cousin wants a commission of obscure Plastic Man villain Disco Mummy shaking her butt, but Mike and Katie have a good time watching the old Plastic Man Filmation shorts and see the elegance and humor in her design. (And, of course, weird commission guy is connected to the bigger mystery in some strange way.) When it comes to introducing characters and settings and transitioning between them, Van Lente doesn’t just merely describe them and move on. He does a comedic riff on them that gets you laughing, immersed in the story, and able to vividly picture the scene. Van Lente’s observational humor is also fresh and sharp if occasionally inside baseball for people who have never been to a con or aren’t familiar with the comics industry. For example, I love his running joke about people at comic book conventions picking up conversations like the last con never happened or just narrating their surroundings.

With a timely July release, Fred Van Lente’s The Con Artist is the perfect balm for readers, who have a love/hate relationship with geek culture just like its protagonist Mike. However, it’s also filled with some truly inspirational passages about storytelling, worldbuilding, and how awesome the comic book medium is, and these thoughts (and one great keynote speech) really make Mike an endearing character in spite of all his issues. It also happens to be a damn good mystery and a bit of a noir with jokes and funny descriptions to boot and hits the proverbial afterburners at the end.

Overall Rating: 8.8

Quirk Books provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Thor_8_CoverWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Brett

Top Pick: Rebels #2 (Dark Horse) – Brian Wood’s series takes us back to the beginnings of the American Revolution. Focusing on two young individuals looking to start their life, Wood not only gives us a touching action story, but also reminds us some of the principles that founded our nation.

Lantern City #1 (Archaia/BOOM! Studios) – A story about castes and a man who just wants a better life for his family.

Rise #2 (Northwest Press) – The series launched after lots of high-profile bullying stories, and while the publisher focuses on LGBT comics, the stories focus on more than just that. These are stories we can all relate to, and after reading you can realize things do get better.

Secret Wars #2 (Marvel) – The first issue threw us head first into a massive action story, taking us right into the thick of battle, and had no problems killing characters off. That only set us up to know anything is possible as Marvel relaunches its comic universe.

Space Riders #2 (Black Mask Studios) – The series’ first issue was a psychedelic space adventure. So, expect more of that… aka more awesome.

 

Edward

Top Pick: Thor #8 (Marvel) – Probably anyone who is even slightly interested in Marvel will be picking this up to find out who the new Thor is

Lady Killer #5 (Dark Horse) – This series sees its end here and we get to find out whether or not Josie is a one hit wonder.

Night Nurse #1 (Marvel) – The Daredevil television series renewed interest in this character, and this collection will give readers some background into who she is.

Silk #4 (Marvel) – There has hardly been a misstep in this Spider-associated book that gets none of the spotlight as its kin.

Wonderland #35 (Zenescope) – Zenescope’s best series continues here with another enticing story arc.

 

Elana

Top Pick: Convergence: Suicide Squad #2 (DC Comics) – Last issue had such a perfect twist by two classic lineup characters and I’m not even talking about the reveal at the end of issue 1. I can’t wait to see what happens next. This book features the REAL Amanda Waller, the most interesting anti-hero in comics and basically the only middle-aged black woman protagonist in super hero comics. When the New 52 made Waller thin & young I was indignant. Read my post “Waller Not Smaller” on why this matters.

I’m so glad to have The Wall back. I know writer Frank Tieri agrees because he told me so on Twitter.

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #6 (Marvel) –  Sera, Angela’s more worldly and sharp-witted life partner/ bard/ “how awesome is her character design?!?” is the reason I read this book. What a revelation she is! I picked up this book for the creative team but I still stayed for this wonderful new character. And she’s a trans woman with dark skin & a non generic body type. More please. Many many more.

Fangirls Guide to Galaxy Handbook for Girl Geeks HC (Quirk Books) – This is going to be on recommended gift lists from now till the end of time. So why not buy one right away! That way you can read it before you regift it this holiday season. Buy one for all of your geek girl friends and supporters.

Storm #11 (Marvel) –  Why is this series getting cancelled? Are you guys not buying it? This book is super entertaining and it is staring Storm!!! One of my favorite long-lost characters from Generation Hope came back in last issue. I did not like his send off in that miniseries (even though it was a wonderful miniseries) so I’m hoping Kenji gets a more favorable resolution this time.

Thor #8 (Marvel) – Who is Thor? The Big reveal! Brett thought it was Roz Solomon (awesome Jewish environmental scientist of SHIELD), I thought it was Mockingbird. Now we will know for sure.  If you’ve been reading the series or any series that touches on sore at all and clearly you’ve got to be in it for this last issue. I know for a fact that there are lots of people who have only started reading store because they heard about the new female store. I just spoke to a woman was picking up comics for the first time because of the series. This must not be the end.