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The latest X-Men film, The Wolverine, has recently opened in theaters. As you might guess, it’s about Wolverine–but I need to talk about the women. As gender fail goes, The Wolverine is by no means an egregious offender. In some ways, it handles its female characters well, but this is all the more reason to critique it: its gender fail not a fluke. It’s not a movie that just happened to be penned by a sexist writer. If anything, its handling of women is better than the norm for a Hollywood superhero flick. Yet it’s still offensive, and we have to do better. Now.

Spoiler-lite summary: the film is set after X-Men: The Last Stand, in which Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) killed an insane Jean-Grey-as-the-Phoenix (Famke Janssen) to stop her wreaking destruction. We catch up with him haunted by dreams of her and trying to put his identity as “Wolverine” behind him. But his past finds him in the form of an old Japanese acquaintance (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) he saved from the bombing of Nagasaki.* This old man wants to see Wolverine before he dies. Thus, Wolverine is whisked off to Japan where adventure ensues, including romance with his old friend’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto). The story is based on one of Wolverine’s more famous comic book plotlines, but I’m going to address the movieverse as a standalone.

The film does some redeeming gender work. One enjoyable character is Yukio (Rila Fukushima), a multitalented mutant sidekick with amazing fighting skills, wit, charm, courage, and culturally plausible Japanese cuteness. (But note the word “sidekick.”) Mariko is also updated from the traditional damsel in distress. Though not a mutant, she has some decent fighting skills of her own and is courageous, proactive, and intelligent.

Read the rest at The Geek Girl Project.
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I so want to love Song of the Beast, but it reads like an advanced rough draft of a work that should have been a classic of sword and sorcery literature. The premise is spectacular: a virtuoso musician imprisoned for seventeen years for reasons he doesn’t understand is released and must rebuild his life while solving the mystery of his imprisonment. I pulled this novel off the library shelf on the strength of this premise: any story that seriously engages the reconstruction of a destroyed life promises to pack a punch. Unfortunately, this book chooses to largely jettison this inner journey in favor of a mystery-adventure plot that remains flat in proportion to the flatness of its characters.

Read the rest at the Geek Girl Project
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Okay, I'm biased: I helped critique an early version of this book, but I still recommend Nye Joell Hardy's The Crows of Bedu from the heart. This young adult fantasy brings together a group of misfit teens who must confront Circe, a witch from ancient Greece, who plans erect a new kingdom in their town.

Now, this is not my genre. In no way do I seek out YA books on modern day teens dealing with weirdness (fantastical or otherwise), but Crows I thoroughly enjoyed, even in its early draft form. Nye is an all around spectacular writer: a great observer of humanity, a wordsmith whose language is both original and easy to follow, and a stickler for the details of life, history, and culture. She's created a book that will not only please its target audience but a much broader audience too.

Consider picking it up today for yourself or as a gift for a young reader in your life.

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