Nora’s Book Corner – Babel: Or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution Review

“That’s just what translation is, I think. That’s all speaking is. Listening to the other and trying to see past your own biases to glimpse what they’re trying to say. Showing yourself to the world, and hoping someone else understands.”

– R.F. Kuang, Babel: An Arcane History

Harper Voyager

R.F. Kuang writes a spellbinding, dark and immersive story in Babel: Or The Necessity Of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution. This novel is a standalone dark academia mixed with speculative fiction, history and fantasy set in the 1800s. It’s about the power of language and linguistics amidst a broken rooted empire that in-turn drives a student revolution. While reading, Kuang makes it feel like the reader is placed in an alternate reality of the world, especially with the magical integration of the silver-workings in terms of how Babel, located at the Royal Institute of Translation, continued to grow in wealth and knowledge while other class groups were simply forgotten. The use of silver is enchanting and plays a large part in the fantastical use of language and translation throughout the novel.

Kuang describes Babel as a love letter and breakup letter to Oxford, where she attended graduate school. This is not the typical genre of fantasy that I normally gravitate to, but I was pulled in by Kuang’s academic-focused (including detailed historical annotations) writing style. Before reading Babel, I read her Poppy War Trilogy: The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God. I couldn’t get enough, I was so engrossed in the trilogy inspired by China’s twentieth century bloody history mixed with magic that really showcased the dark days of war-time. While reading Babel, it is evident that Kuang touched on real-life experiences of racism and degradation while at Oxford. This made the story much more emotional to me. It makes you think, how much has truly changed since the 1800s?

“History isn’t a premade tapestry that we’ve got to suffer a closed world with no exit. We can form it. Make it. We just have to choose to make it.”

– R.F. Kuang, Babel: An Arcane History

The main narrator in this book, Robin Swift is taught the importance of translation from a young age in order to become a student at the Royal Institute of Translation, Babel specifically. He meets three other students, Babblers (those who study at Babel) who struggle through their studies, but also realize that there are secrets brewing amongst Babel and Oxford that are worth investigating, in order to start a crucial, world-saving revolution. The power of language transforms and dominates the future, whether violence is necessary or not.

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

MCU Phase Three: Hardest Decision Making in My Life!

By Kyle Casello

Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be the most difficult phase to rank out of the entire universe. There is honestly only one weak film in the entire phase with the rest being either near top of my all time favorite MCU films or I just really enjoyed them. Also, DAMN! Forgot how many films were in Phase Three.

11) Captain Marvel (2019) Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Disney, Marvel Studios

This is one of those movies that I have very mixed feelings about and upon a second rewatch of the film, the negative feelings overpowered the positive feelings. It’s not bad by any means and does have great moments, but at the same time the pacing and villain causes major issues for me. When looking at the overall quality of Phase Three, this is the weakest film of the phase.

Brie Larson is good as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers and I do believe that a better script and story can only improve her performance. (Her involvement in another film on this list, shows what she can bring to the MCU) Samuel L. Jackson has a bigger role as a young Nick Fury that creates a buddy cop feeling with Carol. Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos are the two best parts of the film, with my favorite Stan Lee cameo.

Why is this in the 11th spot? Misusing Jude Law and Annette Bening, both amazing actors that could have been better used in the MCU. Forgettable action scenes that should carry the film and once Carol finally displays her true powers, it did not provide the satisfaction that it should have. That being said, the sequel is shaping up to be much better than this film and I am looking forward to it.

10) Doctor Strange (2016) Directed by Scott Derrickson

Disney, Marvel Studios

I love this movie!!!! If that is a not an indication of how brilliant Phase Three is then I don’t know what is. From awesome special effects and exploring the mystical side of the MCU to Benedict Cumberbatch making the role his own, Doctor Strange is a fun film.

Every actor including Tilda Swinton, who was miscasted as the Ancient One, delivers great performances. It does kind of suck that Mads Mikklesen was wasted on Kaecilius, a good performance wasted on a forgettable villain. This is one of those films that you can throw on to enjoy the visual effects and some truly funny moments between Cumberbatch’s Strange and Rachel McAdam’s Dr. Palmer.

9) Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Directed by Peyton Reed

Disney, Marvel Studios

Another film I love that suffers from being a part of Phase Three. One of the funniest films of the MCU with Evangeline Lilly becoming a powerhouse in this film. There are many great things about this film, from awesome special effects and great comedic moments. The introduction of Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne and Randall Park as Jimmy Woo provide the MCU with two great characters for future films and shows.

Ant-Man and the Wasp comes in at the 9th spot because of its placement in the MCU, it is sandwiched between the Avengers film, which if it was a standalone film, it could be higher on this list. Also Ghost is a forgettable villain with a cool power.

8) Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) Directed by Jon Watts

Disney, Marvel Studios

The best part about this film is the villainous performance by Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio and the shock return of JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. It is nice seeing how the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame impacts the universe and the loss a mentor can have on someone. The second Spider-Man film in the MCU has the best special effects of the two. I am a huge fan of Spider-Man and this film is very entertaining but coming out after Avengers: Endgame hurts the film’s ranking in this list. Feel it is best to combine both films.

7) Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Directed by Jon Watts

Disney, Marvel Studios

I would say I love this movie, yet I could say that about the upcoming six films on this list. But this film has great moments between Tom Holland’s Peter Parker and Robert Downey’s Tony Stark and introduces one of the most underrated villains in Michael Keaton’s Vulture. Keaton commands the screen every time we see him. The performances throughout this film are awesome and that is one of the high points of the film.

The tease of Donald Glover as Aaron Davis gives the film some of the funniest moments and a link to Miles Morales. Also this film feels different from all other films on this list, as it feels more grounded and Spider-Man feels more like the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Something that I feel like we may never see again as Spider-Man will be dealing with more global events. That being said, Spider-Man: Homecoming may be my favorite live action Spider-Man film.

6) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Directed by James Gunn

Disney, Marvel Studios

This film should be called Yondu & Drax as they steal this film from everyone, even a talking raccoon and tree. Yondu becomes one of the most liked characters in the MCU with his redemption tale in this film. That being said, despite Yondu and Drax stealing the film, each character has great moments and Kurt Russell was awesome as Ego. Not as good as the first film but among one of the best films from the MCU.

In my opinion it is one of the more quotable films in the MCU, from Peter Quill calling Rocket a “trash panda” and Yondu saying “I’m Mary Poppins Y’all,” the dialogue blends well with the stunning visuals. If Phase Three was not so damn good, this would have been high on the list. If Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is as good as I hope, the Guardians trilogy could be the strongest in the MCU next to Captain America.

5) Captain America: Civil War (2016) Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Disney, Marvel Studios

You knew that Phase Three was going to be special with this kicking off the phase. Prior films on this list may have a better story or more laughs but this film simply kicks ass. The introduction of T’Challa/Black Panther and Peter Parker/Spider-Man make this one of the most enjoyable films in the MCU.

The final battle between Iron Man, Captain America, and Winter Soilder may be some of the best action in the MCU, with no one holding back. The film does play like a greatest hits album, which is not a bad thing with each character being able to show what they bring to the franchise and story as a whole. Despite the introduction of Black Panther and Spider-Man, Paul Rudd steals the films as Scott Lang with his witty commentary throughout.

4) Thor Ragnarok (2017) Directed Taika Waititi

Disney, Marvel Studios

Always thought that Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy would be the funniest and most colorful films in the MCU and Taika Wititi said “Nope, you’re wrong mate”. Thor Ragnarok is the most surprising film in the entirety of the MCU when looking at the two films that come prior to it. Yes, there was comedy in those films but not to the point like this. Wititi voicing Korg and turning Korg into a household name seems impossible, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster is a match made in heaven, and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie was such casting that I never knew I needed.

Some may argue about this, but I feel like this is the film that Tom Hiddleston becomes the Loki we all love now, with the growth in the brotherly relationship between Loki and Thor as they have to fight against their sister Hela is one of the strongest parts of the story. Also Cate Blanchett as Hela would have been the best villain of Phase Three if it was not for the following three films on this list. This is a top 5 MCU film in my opinion, due to the craziness and great action in the film. Hey, sometimes a Comic based film does not need to pull directly from the source to create magic.

3) Avengers: Endgame (2019) Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Disney, Marvel Studios

The next three films are hard to rank with Infinity War and Endgame being complete viewing experiences with both films needing to be watched back to back. This is an awesome film with some of the most emotional moments in the MCU. Seriously found myself crying near the end of the film with the death of certain characters that we spent years loving.

I feel sorry for those that never had the opportunity to see this on opening night. I wish they could have experienced it. The reaction from the crowd was something that I would never forget as thinking about the crowd going crazy brings a tear to my eyes. Probably watched this film the most on this list with the climatic battle between the Avengers and Thanos being the reason why I always go back to it. That being said, I believe that Infinity War is the better film and I explain that reasoning later.

2) Black Panther (2018) Directed by Ryan Coogler

Disney, Marvel Studios

This is a near perfect film without any dull moments, also the best casted film of the MCU. Some may argue that the special effects are questionable in the battle between Black Panther and Killmonger, but the storyline, acting, costume design and score are all among the best in the MCU. Rewatching this for the first time since the passing of Chadwick Boseman (Man, did 2020 suck!) was a little emotional.

This film gives the supporting cast a lot of time to show their strength with Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, Letitia Wright as Shuri, and Winston Duke as M’Baku all being scene stealers. Love Chadwich as T’Challa, but this film is brilliant because of everything around him. This was defiantly a film that benefited from being seen in the movie theater with some of the most stunning cinematography for the country of Wakanda. I do hope that we can get more Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger in future films because I think he may be the best performance and villain (outside of Thanos) in the MCU.

  1. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Disney, Marvel Studios

We were speechless after watching this for the first time while eating dinner at Applebee’s. The only film that has ever left me speechless and stunned. This film is the MCU at it’s best with everything working in this film. Despite this film being about Thanos killing half of existence, it has some of the best comedic moments and action scenes in the whole universe.

Tom Holland shines in this film with delivering the most emotional scene in the entire franchise. Also this represents the best performance from Zoe Saldana as Gamora. This film has so much going for it. A movie experience that I don’t think could be duplicated, but I hope Marvel and Disney try to do something like this in the future.

I was recently a part of the Minnesota Comic Exchange YouTube Channel discussing my Top five picks, if you enjoyed this little countdown please check out the video here. I am really looking forward to the next phase of the MCU, the shows have been great and let us know if you would like us to do a review on Black Widow.

Also what is your favorite MCU film?

Celebrating Pride Month with these Graphic Novels

It’s Pride Month, like the title states, and to celebrate I wanted to recommend a few graphic novels that celebrate LGBTQ+ stories. Most of these titles are coming of age and young adult but no matter what age you are, these books should definitely be must read this month.

Poison Ivy Thorns. Sara Kipin. DC Comics

Poison Ivy Thorns may be a DC graphic novel for young adults, but it is truly for all ages. This introduction to Pamela Isley is one that is dark with some horror aspects but filled with self-discovery that shapes Pamela at a young age into the anti-hero she becomes. She is in high school and clearly doesn’t fit in, until she meets Alice Oh who then comes to live with Pamela and her father after an accident in a park. There are a lot of trust issues in this graphic novel, between Pamela and her father and anyone who isn’t family.

Her father uses Pamela as the only way to keep her mother alive to the point where it becomes abusive and wrong. When Alice finds out, they become closer and fall in love. But, Pamela knows that in the end, she has to do what needs to be done no matter how hard it may be. Kody Keplinger’s, author of The DUFF, writing style is fluid. The artwork of Sara Kipin is very fitting and immersive and the story throughout portrays how Pamela finds her true self.

Highly recommend this read!

You Brought Me the Ocean. Julie Maroh. DC Comics

You Brought Me the Ocean is another DC Comics young adult graphic novel. Jake Hyde lives in New Mexico and is told to always “play it safe” but Jake yearns for the ocean and adventure. Then he meets Kenny and they start getting to know each other, find they have a connection after almost drowning Jake saves him. This is when he starts to discover his connections to water. His father does not understand or accept that Jake is queer and his close friend Maria does not know he likes Kenny so Jake starts to spiral a bit.

Jake then tells his mom that he is gay and shows her that the birthmark she thinks he has, is not just that. She then goes on to tell him about Black Manta and how after giving birth to him, she escaped with Aquaman’s help. In the end, this is a tale of self discovery and acceptance. Not just from Jake but from those who love him, and his journey begins here. This is beautifully drawn by Julie Maroh and encompasses the beauty of young self-acceptance.

I also highly recommend this YA graphic novel!

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. First Second

Mariko Tamaki has become a favorite writer of mine, as of late. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is a story that follows Freddy Riley and her on again, off again relationship with Laura Dean. I was surprised at how much this story kept pulling me in, and it was engulfed in one sitting. The artwork style of Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is beautiful and really fits the story. The story is narrated by Freddy, as she is writing into the Anna Vice advice column.

Freddy just wants to be with Laura Dean, but its complicated. This story is about the awkwardness, setbacks and hope of finding love as a teenager. Laura Dean always has a way of telling Freddy that it’s their thing to separate and then get back together, which gets Freddy’s hopes up and seems like that is normal about their relationship. When that’s not the case.

Her group of friends and ones that she meets make her come to realize that in fact, that is not normal but totally toxic. Freddy’s close friend Doodle goes through a tragic situation and they become really close in the end after Freddy pushes her away for the most part throughout the story. In the end, she realizes what is most important. Being a friend and all other things other than being the ex-girlfriend of Laura Dean. Definitely give this three time Eisner winner graphic novel a read!

Luisa Now and Then. Carole Maurel. Humanoids Life Drawn

Luisa Now and Then, originally written and drawn by Carole Maurel, French artist and adapted by Mariko Tamaki, was a book I found at the local library. Seeing Mariko Tamaki’s name got me to grab this book and I am SO glad that I did. I had never heard of this book before, and want more people to know about it as well. The story and artwork style blend so well together.

This story follows Luisa Arambol who is struggling with her life, relationships and job in her early thirties. She is a queer photographer that takes pictures of food, while at lunch with her friend Farid, he asks what she would say to her younger teen self in a joking manner. Little does she know, there’s a young teen version of Luisa that falls asleep on a bus and wakes up to the neighborhood where older, current time Luisa, lives. Luisa’s neighbor across the hall, Sasha finds young Luisa and brings her up to her place. They discover that Luisa’s apartment was her relatives. Luisa freaks out and tries to figure out who this person could be. Until she finds out that it is truly her younger self!

Luisa’s neighbor, Sasha becomes a love interest to Luisa and also younger Luisa. As the story goes on, younger Luisa and Luisa start to discover that since they are both in each other’s presence, they start to almost dissipate and morph into each other, in a sense. Luisa starts to spin out of control with her emotions, when younger Luisa starts to bond with Sasha. She is still coming to terms with being able to fall in love with women and at the end of the book, when she meets up with her mother to come out, the older version continues on in life after leaving the younger version alone to go back into her life.

The way this story is drawn and written is beautiful and important to self-discovery and teaches to just be who you are and love who you want, no matter the circumstances. After reading this library book and really enjoying it, I am hoping to purchase a copy to own.

Let me know of any LGBTQ+ graphic novel recommendations you have! I know there are probably a few that I have read and left off this short list, and ones that are still on the shelf to be read.

The Beginning of a Universe- Ranking Phase One of the MCU

As we prepare for the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film since Spider-Man: Far from Home, with the release of Black Widow (Finally!) on July 9th, 2021, we decided it was time to do a rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So why not do a ranking of each phase? Yes we are planning to watch all 23 films before the release of Black Widow.

Once we are finished with the rewatch, we plan on doing a full ranking of the films and teaming up with the Minnesota Comic Exchange for a video.

6) The Incredible Hulk (2008) Directed by Louis Leterrier

Hmm! This is one of those films that could have been great and ends up being just average. Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/Hulk , Liv Tyler as Betty Ross, William Hurt as General “Thunderbolt” Ross, and Tim Roth as Emil Blonsky/Abomination round out a brilliant cast. William Hurt and Tim Roth are the highlights in this film, especially with Hurt being a perfectly casted “Thunderbolt” Ross. Comparing all phase one films, Edward Norton feels more like an actor playing a role instead of getting lost in the role, which could be where a disconnect happens with us and this film.

It’s a forgettable film and while rewatching it, it easy to understand why Norton was recasted. Its on the short side of MCU films with a runtime of 112 minutes with most films going over 2 hours. Highlights of the film besides Roth and Hurt is the climax between Hulk and Abomination. It was an awesome shot seeing them collide in front of the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Stan Lee’s cameo as a man that gets radiation poisoning is pretty funny along with the Lou Ferrigno cameo.

Biggest wasted opportunity of the film would have to be the introduction of three characters and never expending on their arcs. We were introduced to a forgettable Doc Samson (Ty Burnell), Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) was teased to become the Leader, and we never hear about Betty ever again in the MCU. Despite it being forgettable, even the lesser MCU films are enjoyable.

5) Iron Man 2 (2010) Directed by Jon Favreau

It is funny how much taste can change, when this movie came out, I loved it! Now 11 years later and I find it to be one of the weaker films of phase one. That being said, it is still very enjoyable with some hilarious moments. We do get introduced to Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff, Don Cheadle takes over the role of Rhodey and we get one of the most underrated performances in the MCU by Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer.

But what puts Iron Man 2 so low on this list, is due to Mickey Rourke as Whiplash. The villain can truly make or break a film and this a perfect example of that. Besides the introduction battle between Iron Man and Whiplash during a Formula 1 race, which is awesome and a lot of fun, there is no redeemable factor to his performance and the way he is defeated at the end is very lackluster.

Highlight of the film is the court hearing scene, which may be one of the funnier moments in phase one. The interactions between Robert Downey Jr, Sam Rockwell and Garry Shandling is hilarious and shows the brilliance of Tony and the meaning of the Iron Man suit. Despite Scarlett Johansson being a highlight in this film, the hyper-sexualization of her character is very blatant when you know where her character ends up in future films. Also Stan Lee’s cameo as Larry King will never get old.

4) Thor (2011) Directed by Kenneth Branagh

This was way better and funnier than I remembered! When I first saw this film, I thought it was awesome but I preferred both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk over it. Chris Hemsworth was Thor and Tom Hiddleston was Loki from the start, both actors really captured what it meant to play the characters. The design of Asgard was stunning and the character development were two things that make this film so damn enjoyable.

Thor does have flaws especially when it comes to the battle with the destroyer and the film could had spent more time on Asgard. Also giving Idris Elba more time as Heimdall would made this film a tad better. But during this rewatch, I found myself doing less nitpicking and having a blast watching it. Originally I did not like Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, but now I really liked her performance, which could mainly be in anticipation for her coming back in Thor: Love and Thunder.

The overall impact that this film had on the MCU was really under appreciated in my opinion. The Introduction of Loki, Clint Barton/Hawkeye and Darcy all had great benefits to the future of the MCU. Also Kat Dennings as Darcy was always scene stealer. A hilarious cameo by Stan Lee as the old man trying to pull mjolnir with his pick up truck. If you haven’t rewatched Thor in awhile, I believe you would enjoy it more than you did than the last time.

3) The Avengers (2012) Directed by Joss Wheldon

What? I know what you are thinking, How is this not #1? Well it is still a lot of fun, but two other films are better in my opinion. There is not much to nitpick in this film and all the films lead to this, but I would rewatch Iron Man or Captain America: The First Avenger before The Avengers.That being said Mark Ruffalo is truly the best version of Bruce Banner/Hulk that we have ever seen on the big screen.

There is one problem in this film that bugs me and that is how they use Clint in this film. Feel like putting Clint as a mind controlled character, ruined a character that could be great. But, that is my only complaint for this film.

Loki feels more like a villain in this film compared to Thor and proving that he can be a menace to the entire avengers team. This film also gives each character a moment to shine, even giving Maria Hall (Cobie Smulders) a moment to shine. Film feels like an amusement park ride, but in the best kind of way. It’s non-stop action and humor. “Puny god” will never get old!

2) Iron Man (2008) Directed by Jon Favreau

This is where all began, the moment this film came out Marvel fans freaked out and guess what, it is still a great film. The way that Robert Downey Jr comes in and dominates the role is still astonishing. This film deserves so much credit for creating the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet it can be enjoyed on its own.

I don’t think we knew at the time of release how much of an impact that Robert Downey Jr. as Iron man would have on pop culture and turn the character into one of the most popular characters in film history.

Jeff Bridges is great as Obadiah Stane/Iron Monger which honestly may be the best villain in all three Iron Man films. The Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) end credit scene is unforgettable looking back at phase one. The film is extremely quotable and has some of the most badass shots in phase one. Also the Stan Lee cameo as Hugh Hefner is still hilarious. If it wasn’t for the next film on the list, this may have been the best super hero origin film.

1) Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) Directed by Joe Johnston

In a matter of 10 years, this film went from being my least liked film to most liked film in Phase one. At first I was bored and did not like the fact that the film takes place during in World War II. But the older you get the more your taste changes. Rewatching this and I had more enjoyment of this over Iron Man and The Avengers. Chris Evans was born to play Captain America and he proves it in his first film as the character.

The character development is what I love about this film, from the skinny kid who refuses to give up to becoming the representation of what it means to be a hero is a great story. Also the chemistry Steve Rogers has with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is unbelievable and something I love seeing all the time. This has one of the best supporting casts in any Marvel film with Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Neal McDonough, and Domininic Cooper. But Sebastian Stan is really likable in this film and to see his evolution in films that follow, I forgot how much I liked him in this film. Also Hugo Weaving is underrated as the Red Skull.

If you are thinking I may have bumped my head to not have Iron Man and The Avengers as my top two give Captain America: The First Avenger another chance, despite the ending it is such as feel good film in phase one.

And Now……We Have a Logo!

When Nora and I started this journey, it was simply to chronicle the two of us finding love in comics and sharing a hobby together. We have achieved that and our love for each other and comics grow more and more each day. One of the best things that came out of starting Noggin Comics, is finding a place in the comic community and the relationships that we have created over the last couple years. On May 27th, the kindness of the comic community shined bright as a great friend gifted us with something that was much needed….. a logo!

Created by the amazing artist Jaime Coker and his wife Trisha (she deserve so much love) this logo is a perfect representation of Noggin Comics. The brain represents me, no thats not saying I am genius or anything in a cocky nature. The brain ties into the name Noggin but it also represents the idea of constant thinking and growth. The glasses represents Nora, as she is the geek and wears the glasses (she would say wear the pants as well) in the relationship, I joke. The glasses allow a perfect blend of the two of us. With the brain and glasses looking into a comic book, it crafts an idea of who we are.

This logo not only represents us, but I believe it represents the comic community as a whole. This logo shows the kindness and friendships that come from this community. There is seriously no other community like the comic community.

Thank you so much for creating this logo Jaime and Trisha. It will always be a part of us!